As Iowans know, unearthing egregious waste in our federal government, and making ‘em squeal, is something that’s a priority for me. And in Washington, D.C., there’s no shortage of politicians and bureaucrats wasting our precious tax dollars on crony and ridiculous projects that are truly hard to fathom (a taxpayer-funded study that put turtles on a treadmill comes to mind).
I thought I’d seen it all, but here’s one that I couldn’t even believe. Right now, you—the taxpayer—are spending millions of dollars per day for contractors to babysit piles of metal sitting in the South Texas desert. And that isn’t even the half of it.
Let’s start back when President Biden was first sworn in. On day one in office, the president canceled construction of the barrier along our Southern border, calling it “a waste of money.” Ironically, his decision to not build the wall is the real waste of money. Since pulling the plug on the project, the Biden administration has continued paying contractors upwards of $3 million a day to “watch over” the unused materials lying in the desert. That’s right—taxpayers are being billed to protect piles of rusting materials.
Adding insult to injury, nearly $1 million worth of the unused steel border panels in Texas were stolen in what appears to have been an inside job. Someone being paid to guard the materials may have actually tried to steal it! Thankfully, the metal has since been recovered.
Meanwhile, to make matters even worse, the president is preparing to welcome as many as 18,000 illegal immigrants a day across the border by attempting to repeal the policy requiring those caught trying to enter be turned back—what’s known as Title 42. At that rate, within less than a year, the number of illegal immigrants admitted into the country through the Southern border will be more than double the entire population of Iowa. Fortunately, a judge is blocking the Biden administration from following through on their plan to lift Title 42, for the time being at least. But given this administration’s track record on weak policies and a refusal to secure the border, there’s little comfort that they won’t keep pushing.
Taxpayers have already paid $350 million for the concrete, steel, and fencing that is now sitting idle. In addition, some states that are being overrun by the influx of illegal immigrants would still like to set up barriers to better control who is coming across the Southern border. So, why not let states who want to build the wall access these unused materials? It would save taxpayers money and deter the unprecedented number of border crossings we’ve seen as a result of Biden’s border policies. That’s why I recently introduced legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that I call the BUILD IT Act, or the Border’s Unused Idle and Lying Dormant Inventory Transfer Act. Our bill would turn over the unused materials purchased to construct the Southern border barrier to any state wishing to finish the job.
President Biden’s refusal to secure our border is causing chaos, allowing cartels to smuggle drugs into communities in Iowa and across the country, risking our national security, and costing taxpayers billions of dollars for nothing. Here’s a simple solution, Mr. President: let’s put these materials to use, let’s end the taxpayer-funded waste, let’s stop the unprecedented flow of illegal immigrants, and let’s build it!
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.