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Biden Would End Border Wall Construction, But Wouldn't Tear Down Trump's Additions

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, seen here at a campaign event in July, says he won't tear down the border wall put in place during the Trump administration.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
AFP via Getty Images
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, seen here at a campaign event in July, says he won't tear down the border wall put in place during the Trump administration.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden says if elected, he would not tear down the parts of the barrier along the U.S. Southern border built during the Trump administration — but he would cease construction.

"There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, No. 1," he told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro during an interview with journalists from the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

"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 the bad stuff is happening," the former vice president said during the virtual interview on Tuesday.

Biden committed to fully ending land confiscations, a more aggressive stance than President Barack Obama took when he came into office after President George W. Bush had approved border fencing to be built in the Southwest.

"End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We're out. We're not going to confiscate the land," Biden told Garcia-Navarro.

Obama oversaw the construction of a fence along the Southern border following Bush's signing of the Secure Fence Act in 2006. As the Austin American-Statesman reported, the Department of Homeland Security built 654 miles of fence at a cost of $2.4 billion. Significant amounts of private land were seized by the federal government for to clear space for the barrier.

Ending China tariffs

On China, Biden said he would reverse President Trump's tariffs and pushed back at the suggestion that some believe the Trump administration's aggressive stance toward China has been effective.

"Manufacturing's gone in recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay. We're going after China in the wrong way," he said.

"China is stealing intellectual property. China's conditioning, being able to do business in China, based on whether or not you have 51% Chinese ownership, that's got to end."

When pressed on whether China would have to meet any conditions for reversing tariffs, Biden deflected and said he would take a multilateral approach to get China to change its behavior.

"The question is, what is the appropriate behavior that they have to engage in international trade with us? They have to play by the international rules, and what we have done is, we have disarmed ourselves," he said.

"We make up 25% of the world's economy, but we poked our finger in the eye of all of our allies out there. The way China will respond is when we gather the rest of the world that in fact engages in open trade and making sure that we're in a position that we deal with WHO the right way ... That's when China's behavior is going to change."

On taking a cognitive test

Biden bristled when asked by CBS' Errol Barnett, a Black journalist, whether he had taken a cognitive test. "No, I haven't taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test?" Biden said. "Come on, Man. That's like saying you, before you got on this program, did you take a test where you're taking cocaine or not? What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?"

In recent weeks, Trump has bragged about his own such test, which is meant to identify cognitive decline, not measure a person's intelligence. He has tried to make Biden's mental state an issue for voters. Biden turns 78 a few weeks after the election. Trump is 74. Either would be the oldest president inaugurated.

Biden didn't comment on Trump's tactic beyond saying he looks forward to debating. "Well, if he can't figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don't know what the hell he's talking about... I know you're trying to goad me, but I mean, I'm so forward-looking to have an opportunity to sit with the president or stand with the president and the debates."

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Corrected: August 5, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
In a previous version of this story, we incorrectly said Joe Biden would not reverse President Trump's tariffs on China. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said he would do so.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
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