‘BUILD IT’ bill and banned from Russia: An Ernst Media Conference


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U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says legislation she’s driving in the Senate would give border states the resources to build their own barriers to prevent illegal immigration.

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U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says legislation she’s driving in the Senate would give border states the resources to build their own barriers to prevent illegal immigration.

The bill, the Border’s Unused Idle and Lying Dormant Inventory Transfer Act, dubbed the BUILD IT Act, is meant to endow states along the southern border with the power to use the materials from the scrapped border wall project started by the Trump administration to, in essence, build their own walls. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, joins Ernst as a co-sponsor of the bill along with other leading Republicans such as Ted Cruz of Texas.

Ernst, an architect of the legislation, said she proposed it as a way to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and eliminate waste in government spending.

“Since pulling the plug on the project, the Biden administration has continued paying contractors upwards of $3 million every single day to watch over the unused materials lying in the desert,” Ernst said on a conference call with media Tuesday. “That’s right folks, taxpayers are being billed to protect piles of rusting materials.”

Ernst said there would be an application process for states to acquire the unused building materials, exclusively with the intent of reinforcing the border. 

“A state like California couldn’t apply for those unused materials, and then turn around and use them in San Francisco for homeless camps, or something like that,” Ernst said. “They would actually have to use it to secure their southern border.”

Ernst said the legislation does not have allocations for states such as Texas to reclaim funds spent on state-level initiatives to continue the federal project, but that it will serve as a means for states to capitalize on the unused materials that have already been distributed.

“The president is preparing to welcome as many as 18,000 illegal migrants a day across the border by attempting to repeal the policy requiring those caught trying to enter be turned back, a policy known as Title 42,” Ernst said. “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.”

Title 42, enacted by the Trump administration, allows for migrants at the southern border to be turned away from seeking asylum, citing public health concerns (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) as grounds for expulsion. 

“Folks, America is, and always has been, a welcoming nation — but those seeking a better life here have an obligation to follow our laws,” Ernst said.

Ernst said support for reenforcing the southern border doesn’t only come from the right, citing Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, and Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, as both wanting to fill holes along the border. Neither Hassan nor Kelly currently co-sponsor the bill, but Ernst said she plans to approach them for bipartisan support.

“We need to be very pragmatic about this, and recognize that there are a lot of folks coming across the border that should not be coming across the border, and there are Democrats that support initiatives to curtail that flow,” Ernst said.

On other topics, Ernst was named among a total of 963 Americans barred from entering Russia after the Russian Foreign Ministry published a list Saturday.

“I have been extremely outspoken when it comes to standing up for the democratic country of Ukraine,” Ernst said. “It is a sovereign country, and one that is important to the stability of Europe and our own national security.”

Ernst added, “To be put on a banned list by Vladimir Putin and Russia, who, you know — Vladimir Putin is an autocratic murderous thug — being on that list, it actually tells me that I’m doing something right, so I will continue to be outspoken against VP and the Russian soldier who invaded Ukraine.”

She said those who were not put on the list may not have been as outspoken as herself or others listed, but Ernst said she encourages all her colleagues to speak up on the issue. 

“Thanks a lot, Vladimir Putin. I plan not to travel to Russia now that I’m banned,” she said.