Biden nominee backs US-funded border wall in Jordan ‘to provide physical security’

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President Biden’s nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Jordan said she supports U.S. funding to provide a border wall in the country, saying it provides the U.S. ally with ‘physical security.’ And a Republican senator highlighted its contrast with the administration’s opposition to a wall at the U.S. southern border.

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., in a Senate hearing asked nominee Yael Lempert about $150 million provided to Jordan for border security in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus package, funding that is partially continued in the 2024 budget request. Lempert said she supports that request.

‘In fact, the omnibus last year provides for at least $150 million for border security in Jordan. It’s a large amount of taxpayer dollars. And if you think about the purpose of this, it’s to provide physical security, to keep people from illegally crossing into Jordan, isn’t that correct?’ Hagerty asked.

‘It is to provide physical security, to stop drug smugglers, to deal with the threat of Jordan’s neighbor, Syria. Obviously, the conflict there continues, and it’s a dangerous neighborhood,’ Lempert replied.

Hagerty asked if there is a belief that ‘this sort of funding is important and that this sort of physical security is effective.’

‘In the Jordanian context? I do believe that that is correct, senator,’ the nominee responded.

Hagerty then contrasted her stance and the position of the administration with its decision to largely halt border wall construction at the southern border in early 2021 even as the administration faced a historic migrant crisis at its own southern border.

‘I just think it’s an important lesson for us to learn, as Americans, that we’re spending United States taxpayer dollars to support border security in a country that we’re trying to build stronger relations with,’ Hagerty said. ‘I think we ought to be learning a lesson ourselves because there’s not a penny in the president’s budget to support our own border security here.’

While the budget does include funding for Customs and Border Protection, including technology, staffing and processing, Republicans have argued it does not do enough to secure the border, including the failure to build additional wall. 

Republicans in the House recently unveiled legislation that would increase Border Patrol agents by 3,000 and restart funding for the border wall. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has accused Republicans of attempting to cut CBP funding with their own proposed spending cuts.

The debate over the border wall, even within the administration, was on display in March when Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said he disagreed with the decision to stop construction of the wall at the southern border.

‘I do not believe in a wall from sea to shining sea, but I do believe in infrastructure and barrier systems in concentrated areas, especially urban areas,’ Ortiz said. 

‘And it’s always been our practice, from 2006 when I was an agent in charge in West Texas to now. But I also don’t agree that we should tear down a perfectly good barrier system to install something that is based upon requirements that we developed over the last few years.’

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