The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it would expand the border wall, which began construction under President Donald Trump, and that it would begin to deport thousands of Venezuelans who have crossed the border in recent months.
The announcement reversed a move Mr Biden made earlier in his presidency to stop the construction of any new portions of the wall. His administration is waiving more than 20 federal laws and regulations to allow for the construction to continue.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez criticised the administration for the decision both to continue the construction and to ignore federal law while doing so.
“The Biden administration was not required to expand construction of the border wall – and they certainly were not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building," she said in a statement. "The president needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course."
She said a "wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States."
The congresswoman argued that the desperation faced by migrants is too great to be deterred by a wall.
"You do not risk your life or your children’s lives going through the Darién Gap or traversing hundreds of miles of desert if you have any other options," she said. "Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death."
Ms Ocasio-Cortez called the move a "cruel policy."
Though Mr Biden previously described the border wall as "not a serious policy solution," the more than 50,000 migrants from Venezuela who crossed into the US last month have apparently prompted a change in thinking in the White House.
The policy shift comes only three weeks after the Biden administration granted a temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who already crossed into the US unlawfully.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez called policy solutions like the border wall a “money pit.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the move, saying in a statement that the decision to continue construction was a legal requirement stemming from appropriations made during Mr Trump's administration.
“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States,” he said in the statement, noting that waiving laws and regulations was necessary to complete the work in a timely manner.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez rejected the policy as effective, and said the US needed to re-examine its role in causing the conditions that force migrants to flee their homes.
"Instead, the U.S. must take examining the root of migration more seriously, re-examine policy towards Latin America, and stop contributing to the destabilization that drives migration - as Senator Marco Rubio’s Venezuela sanctions have done," she said. "We also have to finally invest in meaningful immigration reform.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre ducked questions about the wall on Thursday after Mr Mayorkas issued a call for continued construction and the waiving of regulations to get it done.
She insisted that "I've not seen [Mr Mayorkas'] full statement" and said Mr Biden had been "very clear that he doesn't believe it's effective."
Mr Mayorkas attempted to soften the news of the continued construction by pointing out that the Biden administration hasn't implemented any "new" policy, but that it is simply following through on previous policies established by Mr Trump.
"I want to address today’s reporting relating to a border wall and be absolutely clear," he told the White House press pool. "There is no new Administration policy with respect to border walls. From day one, this Administration has made clear that a border wall is not the answer."
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