Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is calling out the Biden Administration for failing to complete construction of the wall along the southwest border, saying President Biden’s decision to halt the project was to spite former President Trump and is resulting in “an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Lankford, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has visited the border twice since Biden took office, asserting that a recent surge in illegal border crossings is the direct result of the new administration’s more lax policies, including a decision to stop construction of the wall begun by his predecessor.
Biden issued the directive to cease all work on border structures within hours of being sworn in on January 21.
In an interview Tuesday, Lankford said he believes the president took the action out of spite.
"This seems to be an 'I am not Trump--Trump was putting up a wall--I’m not going to put up a wall' kind of moment," Lankford suggested.
Oklahoma's junior senator said there is no other rational explanation for stopping a project that was already funded, designed by career professionals, and desperately wanted by border patrol agents.
"They will tell you over and over again we need fencing," Lankford said. "It is one of the multiple tiers of deterrence -- it’s not the only piece, but it is an essential piece."
Border security was an early political vulnerability for the Biden Administration, which helps explain why it remains very popular, politically, with Republicans.
At a Senate GOP news conference last week, Lankford, who is up for re-election next year and has a primary opponent, said the Biden Administration is now paying contractors $3 million a day to guard unused steel.
"So far this year, the administration has paid $2 billion to contractors not to complete the wall -- $2 billion not to complete the wall," Lankford added for emphasis.
The administration has yet to respond to a request for comment on the Lankford allegation, but last fall the Army Corps of Engineers reportedly estimated, even with the cost of demobilizing contractors, the government would save about $2.6 billion if Biden chose not to continue construction.
According to reports, 450 miles of border fencing was erected under the Trump Administration, but about 285 miles remained to be built.
The Biden Administration has pointed out that the number of unaccompanied minors at the border is down, as is the average length of time they spend in holding facilities. Still, overall illegal crossings continue to rise and Lankford said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents aren't being allowed to do their jobs.
"We have 6,000 ICE agents," Lankford said. "Last month they had 3,000 deportations. So, they have been dramatically slowed in being able to engage with individuals."
Customs and Border Patrol report there were just under 189,000 attempted illegal crossings in June. One third of those were repeat crossers.