Federal agencies building Donald Trump's partially-completed wall along the southern border with Mexico are said to be holding urgent meetings as they prepare for a stop-work order under a Joe Biden presidency.
Quoting officials at the US Customs and Border Protection and the US Army Corps of Engineers, The Washington Post reports that both agencies acknowledge the wall will remain incomplete in areas that construction crews will be unable to finish before inauguration day on 20 January.
While termination clauses allow the government to break contracts, companies ordered to down tools will be entitled to compensation from a Biden administration for costs of "demobilization" to withdraw workers and equipment.
“The termination clause permits the government to exercise its right to terminate the contract for its convenience,” Army Corps spokeswoman Raini Brunson told The Independent. “If terminated for convenience, the contractor is entitled to submit a request for termination settlement costs.”
Mr Biden pledged during the campaign that his administration would end confiscation of land and construction of the wall once he's sworn in as president, but he stopped short of committing to tearing down parts already built.
"There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration number one," Mr Biden said in August.
"I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it and at the ports of entry. That’s where all bad stuff is happening."
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is assessing potential threats from unfinished segments and gaps in the wall, which they say are mostly in inaccessible mountainous terrain.
“We’re looking at project timelines, estimated construction completion and looking to prioritize segments of the wall to minimize the potential threats created by a stoppage,” a CBP official told the Post.
The Trump administration received $15 bn in funding from the Pentagon and Congress to build 738 miles of the 30-foot steel bollard fencing, most of which went toward replacing older barriers with the new constructions.
While Mr Biden pledged to end land confiscations, which began under the Bush administration and were continued under the Obama administration, neither the CBP nor the Army Corps officials quoted in the report knew what would happen to private land that has been confiscated where no wall has been built.
Most of the land the Rio Grande is privately held, leaving much of the 1,200 miles along the southern border incomplete as the land confiscation process delayed the start of construction.
CBP said in a statement to The Independent that the majority of contracts have been awarded and construction is underway for the 738 miles funded to date. It is expected to complete an additional 30 miles, to the six already built, in the Rio Grande Valley by 20 January, inauguration day for the next president.“
"Since the US Border Patrol began constructing border barriers nearly 30 years ago, these barriers have proved to be a critical component in gaining operational control of the border and allowing for greater efficiency of manpower,” the statement said.