Instead of Money for Tests, Masks and Ventilators, Trump Diverts Spending
Even a pandemic can’t distract President Trump from his politically motivated border wall obsession, which continues to be a singular priority for his administration. New reports from Reuters and The Daily Beast drive home that point, finding that the Trump administration has opened 20 new legal cases to support their border wall construction effort in the past two months alone and this week granted a $569 million contract to a GOP-connected firm for building 17 miles of wall.
“These takings are directly affecting people’s homes,” said Efrén Olivares, the Legal Director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, who represents landowners in the path of the border wall. “These clients live on this land. They want to send contractors to come in and take their homes while we’re supposed to be sheltering in place. It’s unbelievable.”
According to Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice,
Trump’s border wall obsession embodies all the worst about this president and his priorities, including its emphasis on ugly race-baiting politics and its inescapable cronyism and self-dealing. Just think: in the midst of a global pandemic that should be the singular focus of this administration, Trump is escalating efforts to build an unnecessary wall that raids taxpayer funds that could be used for testing, masks and other COVID responses. But instead of ramping up containment, Trump and Republicans have ramped up racist ads that target immigrants and Latinos in the U.S. and construction of the wall. All to support Trump’s reelection and build a monument to his ego.
See below for details from the new Reuters and Daily Beast reports that underscore the latest reminders about the Trump administration’s escalating and continued border wall obsession.
An exclusive report in Reuters, “As the U.S. Shut Down, Trump’s Legal Fight to Build Wall Ramped Up,” finds:
Even as the Trump administration was struggling to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, it was ramping up efforts to seize land along U.S. southern border to build a wall and fulfill a major campaign promise, a Reuters review of federal court records shows.
…While most of the U.S. has been slowed by the COVID-19 crisis – which has infected nearly 650,000 Americans and killed at least 32,000 more – Trump’s efforts to construct a southern border wall has only gained steam. In the past 12 months, the administration opened 41 cases in federal court to seize land to build a wall along the southern border of Texas. Nearly half of those cases – 16, or 39 percent – were filed in the past two months.
And a story in the Daily Beast, “Army Decides a Pandemic Is a Good Time to Give GOP Donors $569 Million to ‘Build the Wall’” notes:
In the middle of a pandemic that has killed 27,000 Americans and counting, the Army this week gave a politically connected Montana firm half a billion dollars—not to manufacture ventilators or protective gear to fight the novel coronavirus, but to build 17 miles of President Trump’s southern border wall.
On Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it awarded BFBC, an affiliate of Barnard Construction, $569 million in contract modifications for building “17.17 miles” of the wall in two California locations, El Centro and San Diego. That works out to over $33 million per mile—steeply above the $20 million-per-mile average that the Trump administration is already doling out for the wall. Construction is supposed to be completed by the end of June 2021.
And it’s only the latest wall contract the firm has gotten. BFBC, a reliable contributor to Republican politicians, has gotten over $1 billion in taxpayer money in less than a year to build a mere 37 miles worth of wall. Scott Amey, the general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, urged federal watchdogs to investigate the new BFBC contract. ‘$1 billion for 37 miles of wall is a travesty and it must be investigated and audited immediately,’ Amey said. ‘That’s nearly $27 million per mile, which is well above other wall costs. These efforts might make good on a campaign promise, but who is minding the store and ensuring that military readiness and bases are not negatively impacted?’
… ‘In a time when our communities face the prospect of rationing ventilators and other life-saving care, all of our government’s resources should be spent on building hospitals and medical equipment, and ensuring that the public is safe and healthcare workers have all of the resources they need to face this unprecedented crisis,’ wrote Reps. Raul Grijalva, Bennie G. Thompson, Filemon Vela and Ann Kirkpatrick on April 8. The legislators noted that the additional construction endangered ‘border residents, and the communities of construction workers.’