Biden’s proclamation represents his latest effort to undo some of the previous administration’s most controversial policies in his opening weeks in office, many of which were related to immigration and law enforcement at the southern border.
But for the troops on the ground, not much will change. Roughly 3,600 military personnel will continue providing support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection in the form of surveillance, maintenance, logistics and transportation until September, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said.
In response to the pandemic in March of last year, an additional 600 personnel were deployed to the border to operate 60 additional surveillance sites, Mitchell said. Those troops will leave by March 31.
Mitchell stressed that the troops are not helping with wall construction. That effort is overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, which directed the contractors working on the border not to install any additional physical barriers. The only work that will occur is the construction activity necessary to close down each site, he said.
Trump’s national emergency declaration in February 2019 came after a 35-day government shutdown that resulted in him signing a bipartisan government funding bill allocating $1.375 billion for border security.
That amount was far less than the $5.7 billion Trump had sought to build a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico, so the then-president circumvented Congress by declaring a national emergency at the border.
In total, Trump’s declaration diverted more than $6 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of border barrier. Of those funds, $3.6 billion were earmarked for military construction, $2.5 billion were dedicated to a Defense Department drug prevention program and $600 million were from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund.
The order was met by legal challenges and rebukes among members of Congress from both parties. Additionally, a bipartisan group of nearly five dozen former national security officials condemned the decision.