Pentagon Moves Ahead On Border Wall To Displeasure Of House Democrats
By Jennifer G. Hickey | March 29, 2019
On Monday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan notified Congress that authorization had been granted to the commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to spend up to $1 billion to support the Department of Homeland Security’s request “to build 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting within the Yuma and El Paso Sectors of the border.”
DoD said 10 U.S.C. § 284(b)(7) gives them the authority to “construct roads and fences and to install lighting to block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of Federal law enforcement agencies.”
The notification was met with scorn from Democrats in the House, particularly from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith. A day after the notification was sent, Smith responded in a two-paragraph letter of rejection.
“The committee denies the request. The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border,” wrote Smith.
In an accompany press release, Smith asserted the Pentagon was “attempting to circumvent Congress” and concluded by noting that “Congress will act as necessary to defend its Constitutional prerogatives.”
The reason for the Pentagon’s actions was President Trump’s Feb. 7 emergency declaration on mass migration on the southern border. Although the House and Senate passed measures blocking the declaration, the president subsequently issued a veto, sending the matter back to Congress.
On March 26, the House failed to override the veto, but Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) issued a joint statement affirming their intent to continue their efforts to block the president’s pursuit of stronger border security.
“Congress will work through the appropriations and defense authorization processes to terminate this dangerous action and restore our constitutional system of balance of powers,” they wrote. “We will continue to review all options to protect our Constitution and our Democracy from the President’s assault.”
There certainly will be more press releases coming in the weeks and months and the appropriations process in both chambers likely will feature battles over border wall financing, as well as funding for the departments responsible for immigration enforcement. Stay tuned.