Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a sharp message for President Joe Biden on his administration’s decision this week to waive federal protections that will allow for more speedy construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall section first proposed by former president Donald Trump: Don’t.
“The Biden administration was not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building of the border wall,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement on Thursday. “The President needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course.”
“A wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States. You do not risk your life or your children’s lives going through the Darién Gap or traversing hundreds of miles of desert if you have any other options,” added the New York Democrat. “Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy.”
Biden unleashed fury from migrant rights advocates and human rights defenders on Wednesday after the Department of Homeland Security said it planned to enter a “notice of termination” into the Federal Register that would suspend regulations that govern such construction projects.
Laiken Jordahl, southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said it was “disheartening to see President Biden stoop to this level” in order to “build ineffective wildlife-killing border walls” that international advocates say also violate human rights.
Biden on Thursday argued from the Oval Office that he had no choice but to fast-track the construction.
“The money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate, to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t,” he said. “In the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated for. I can’t stop that.”
Asked by a reporter if he thought the border wall envisioned and partially built by Trump that now continues to be constructed by his administration is effective, Biden answered: “No.”
Instead of increased militarization of the border and ever-larger border barriers, Ocasio-Cortez is in the camp who argue that to address concerns about migrant flows and refugee populations at the southern border, deeper dynamics must be addressed.
Instead of border reinforcements and the dehumanization of those seeking a better life in the U.S., she said, “the U.S. must take examining the root of migration more seriously, re-examine policy towards Latin America, and stop contributing to the destabilization that drives migration—as Senator Marco Rubio’s Venezuela sanctions have done. We also have to finally invest in meaningful immigration reform.”