WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration is “complying by law” in its decision to waive 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall to commence.
The move — which was announced Wednesday — is a policy reversal for President Joe Biden, who said during his 2020 campaign that he would “not build another foot of wall as president.”
In Thursday’s daily press briefing, Jean-Pierre suggested the administration had no choice other than waiving the laws and allowing construction of the border to continue.
“[President Biden] has been asking Congress to reappropriate the funds,” Jean-Pierre said during Thursday’s daily press briefing. “Congress refused and we have to comply by law to get this done.”
The funds referenced were originally appropriated in 2019, under former President Donald Trump, who made building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign.
Biden has recently faced increased pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike to address the flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. immigration agents apprehended more than 200,000 migrants attempting to cross the Southern border unlawfully in September, the highest number in 2023, CBS News reported.
Despite the apparent switch in strategy for the Biden administration, Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the president’s position on the efficacy of border walls has not changed since he was elected in 2020. Prior to Biden’s Thursday briefing on Ukraine, the president responded “no” when asked whether a border wall works.
However, in a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reflected a different viewpoint.
“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States,” Mayorkas said, contrasting the White House’s official position on the efficacy of border walls.
When pressed on Mayorkas’ comments Thursday, Jean-Pierre responded that she had not seen the full statement.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized the Biden administration’s decision during a press conference Thursday. The move is a “step backward” for U.S.-Mexico relations, he said. Obrador met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken following the press conference.
During the briefing, Jean-Pierre also underscored the president’s commitment to funding Ukraine by referencing Russia’s attack Thursday on a village grocery store that killed at least 49 civilians.
Additional funding for Ukraine was absent in the 45-day continuing resolution Biden signed into law on Saturday to keep the government funded through Nov. 17. However, the Biden administration has maintained support for providing additional funds and resources for Ukraine in its war effort.
“If we abandon the people in Ukraine and Russia is successful, it would send a terrible message and embolden dictators and would-be aggressors around the world who may want to invade other countries,” Jean-Pierre said.
Biden announced on Wednesday that he plans to give a speech on the importance of the U.S. and its allies remaining committed to Ukraine. Jean-Pierre did not provide further details on the speech.