Politico: Senate Dems to DHS: Why is border wall construction continuing amid pandemic?

by Burgess Everett

Senate Democrats are pressing the Department of Homeland Security on Friday to explain why the wall on the southern border is still being built during the coronavirus pandemic and amid strict national social distancing guidance.

In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, five Democrats with jurisdiction over homeland security matters said the administration owes Congress an updated Border Security Improvement Plan and one that reflects the dangers of construction work during the coronavirus crisis. They say that “the rapid construction of the border wall while so many Americans are suffering is unnerving, and may be dangerous for workers and communities alike.”

“The administration’s pursuit of border wall construction during a global pandemic puts workers and communities at risk, and possibly violates state and local public health guidance to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the senators wrote in the letter, citing the danger of the virus to federal workers. “This is a real and evolving concern. Americans deserve to understand any potential impact a border wall might serve in fighting the coronavirus, if any.”

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Patty Murray of Washington.

The Trump administration has been able to seize billions of dollars to build the border wall after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. Bipartisan majorities in Congress tried to block his emergency declaration that allowed him to raid other spending accounts for the border wall, but was unable to muster a veto-proof majority.

Democrats could have forced another vote disapproving of the national emergency declaration this spring, but the response to the coronavirus has seized all of Congress’s attention.