Originally Published in CNN
Priscilla Alvarez - January 5, 2021
Asked by CNN Tuesday whether there are plans to continue to finalize contracts, even in areas where the real estate is not owned by the federal government, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan responded "yes."
"We believe that probably by January 17,18,19, we will have well over 700 miles of that 800 funded...The contract will have already been awarded," Morgan said. "The major milestone is having a contract awarded."
"We're going to have to go into settlement agreements with each individual contractor," Morgan added, noting, that payments will have to be made for what they've already done, as well as for materials produced. He estimated the process could cost billions.
Raini W. Brunson, a spokesperson for the US Army Corps of Engineers, said the agency had nothing to add beyond Morgan's comments.
In a statement, CBP said the majority of the miles funded through fiscal year 2020 are on federally-owned property and noted that design and real estate acquisition activities "occur in parallel."
"Real estate acquisition activities continue for other areas of the project while the construction contractor is working in areas that have been acquired or were already Government owned therefore mitigating any possible delays," the statement reads. "Based on CBP's experience in constructing barriers in 2007-2009, this is the most efficient process in order to rapidly construct in areas where the Border Patrol agents need it most."
Morgan touted the administration's progress on border wall construction on Tuesday in a call with reporters, saying the goal to complete 450 miles by the end of 2020 had been met.
Of the 450 miles, the majority is replacing old, dilapidated barriers with a new enhanced, border wall system, a marked difference from the fencing previously constructed in some regions.
Roughly 47 miles have gone up where no barriers previously existed, according to data provided by CBP.
Over the course of the last four years, Trump has repeatedly cited the border wall as an accomplishment and as a critical component of his immigration agenda. Biden has set a different tone.
"Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders," Biden's plan reads
. "Instead of stealing resources from schools for military children and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Biden will direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts, like investments in improving screening infrastructure at our ports of entry, that will actually keep America safer."