Despite the multimillion-dollar contracts signed and the work progressing at a fast pace, the companies that are building Donald Trump’s long-awaited border wall will not be able to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from keeping his promise to stop construction, according to experts.
Donald Trump made the construction of the wall one of his administration’s goals, and although he refuses to acknowledge defeat and begin the transition, Biden is already working on the steps he will take during his first 100 days in office, beginning January 20, 2021.
These include stopping the confiscation of land and the construction of the fence forever, although, despite calls for him to tear down what has already been built, Biden has said that he will not dismantle what has been built so far.
CANCELLATION OF CONTRACTS
It’s billions of dollars in contracts already awarded, but the government has the power to terminate those commitments at any time, Professor Charles Tiefer, who teaches public contracts at the University of Baltimore, told Efe.
He explained that there is a doctrine on government contracts, developed by Congress, called “termination for convenience”, which allows the government to terminate the commitment and withdraw for whatever reason it thinks of.
“This comes from the last year of World War II, when the government had granted huge contracts for the manufacture of tanks, artillery, planes, ships of all kinds and ammunition, which it finally did not need,” Tiefer said.
The contractor is reimbursed for the work done, the costs incurred and the expected profit.
“It’s a transaction that can be very time-consuming, but rarely do these cases go to court,” he added.
According to the latest figures from Customs and Border Protection, so far 402 miles (643 kilometers) of fencing have been built or replaced along the border, and it is expected to reach 450 miles (725 km) by the end of the year.
MILLION DOLLAR PAYMENTS
The original project cost $15 billion, of which the government got only a third through congressional appropriations and funds that were diverted from other programs, such as military construction.
For the builders, the government is within its rights, although it will have to pay a lot of money to get out of the Trump Pharaonic project.
Jordan Howard of the General Contractors Association of America (AGC), which brings together 27,000 companies, told Efe it is unusual for a government to complete a federal project in this way, although it is “rarer” than on a multi-billion dollar scale.
Howard said that the businessmen anticipate a “long process of negotiation,” but see beyond possible disputes to cancel contracts and are confident that fair compensation will be achieved.
As soon as it was announced that Biden was projected as the president-elect, AGC President Stephen E. Sandherr issued a statement expressing the contractors’ desire to work with the next government to “help develop an agenda focused on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and national economy.
However, until Biden takes office, the current government’s plans for the border remain in place and crews continue to dynamite mountain areas in southwestern Arizona, or confiscate land along the Rio Grande in south Texas.
In South Texas, where 90 miles of wall were projected on private land, three out of four people surveyed by a local university reject the work because they consider it “wasteful and a threat to the environment.
And Biden is also betting on a high-tech “virtual wall” to ensure border security.
However, for Roberto Lopez, a community organizer with the Texas Civil Rights Project, this idea does not reassure him much, because that area already coexists with Border Patrol checkpoints, the overflight of drones, aerostatic surveillance balloons, and more police forces than any other region of the country, with the exception of the nation’s capital.
“Even if the wall is stopped, the idea of border security still exists, something that in my opinion makes us less secure,” he concluded.