LAREDO, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday announced the first two cancellations of border wall contracts that had been issued during the Trump administration, slated to be built in the South Texas city of Laredo.
Both contracts were worth over $500 million and were awarded to different contractors that were hired to build 31 miles of the border barrier on the southern edge of Laredo and Webb County. But no actual construction or land acquisition was ever done on these two projects.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose hometown is Laredo, told Border Report that “these contracts were a little easier to terminate because there was no work done, no digging.”
“They decided to terminate the contracts, which I’m excited (about),” said Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriation Committee, which oversees all funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
“The wall is a 14th-century solution to 21st-century issues. We want to see border security but we want to see more men and women in green and blue to secure the border. We need more technology and I’m asking the administration to move faster on that technology,” Cuellar said Friday outside a nonprofit mental-health facility, where announced $6 million in federal funds awarded to help border youth.
Border wall opponents praised the announcement, which they attributed to this South Texas city galvanizing together against the construction of a border wall.
“Now we have two other border wall contracts that need to be canceled before we’ll sleep really well, but this is amazing. We are the first community to have stopped the wall and we are very excited,” Melissa Cigarroa, of the Laredo No Border Wall Coalition, told Border Report on Friday while overlooking the banks of the Rio Grande.
The other two remaining contracts are for 41 additional border wall miles to be built in Laredo, and were negotiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those two contracts are still in effect but border wall advocates are hoping will also soon be canceled.
Altogether, the four border wall contracts totaled over $1.05 billion, which Cigarroa said would have been a colossal waste of taxpayer funds.
“It’s a tremendous amount of money that they wanted to waste for an ineffective, destructive wall that would threaten our life, our property, our culture. We weren’t going to accept it,” said Cigarroa, who is president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Rio Grande International Study Center, which studies the Rio Grande. “But our community, our organization, our people would not accept it. It was so counter to our way of life and to what we live every day. There is no disaster. There is no danger.”
It’s a tremendous amount of money that they wanted to waste for an ineffective, destructive wall.”Melissa Cigarroa, of the Laredo No Border Wall Coalition
Laredo residents were by far more vocal and active in fighting border wall construction than most other border cities in South Texas. Opponents painted murals on a downtown street, held rallies and block-walked in communities and even held a river sit-in protest.
In canceling these two contracts in Laredo, CBP officials said Friday that the agency “intends to engage in environmental planning concerning these barrier projects, including taking certain actions consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes.”
The Biden administration halted border wall construction, which began during the Trump administration. But President Joe Biden has advocated for smart border technology and other stepped-up security initiatives along the Southwest U.S. border with Mexico, particularly in South Texas where thousands of migrants have been crossing daily.
In a statement, DHS officials said the Biden administration is assessing all border wall contracts and is “calling on Congress to cancel remaining border wall funding and instead fund smarter border security measures, like border technology and modernization of land ports of entry, that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border.”
So many migrant families are crossing into South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and being released by DHS officials that since July 1, Border Patrol agents have sent hundreds to the Laredo area, where city leaders have filed a lawsuit to stop migrants from being sent to this region because many are found to be carrying coronavirus.
Cuellar told Border Report on Friday that DHS officials have temporarily suspended the daily transportation of migrants from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo as they assess city officials’ concerns.