On Wednesday, the Biden administration said that it had waived 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow border wall building, marking the administration’s first exercise of expansive executive power, which Trump has frequently used during his presidency.
The Department of Homeland Security made the statement on the U.S. Federal Registry with minimal information defining the construction in Starr County, Texas, which is part of a busy Border Patrol sector experiencing “high illegal entry.” According to government figures, around occurred in this region during the current fiscal year.
“There is currently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads near the United States border in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in the notification.
The Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act were among the federal statutes waived by DHS to make room for border wall construction using monies from a congressional appropriation in 2019. The waivers prevent time-consuming reviews and lawsuits contesting environmental law violations.
Starr County’s rugged ranchlands, located between Zapata and McAllen, Texas, are home to around 65,000 residents who live in a sparsely populated area of approximately 1,200 square miles (3,108 square kilometres) that is part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Although no maps were supplied in the announcement, a previous graphic shared during the public comment period showed that the piecemeal construction will add up to 20 miles to the area’s existing border barrier system. According to Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, it will begin south of the Falcon Dam and continue past Salineo, Texas.
“Another concern we have is that the area is highly erosive.” “There are a lot of arroyos,” county judge Eloy Vera stated, pointing them the creeks that cut through the ranchland and lead into the river.
Environmentalists are concerned because the constructions will run through public grounds, which are home to endangered plants and creatures such as the Ocelot, a spotted wild cat.
“A wall-building plan would bulldoze an impermeable barrier straight through the heart of that habitat.” It will halt wildlife movements completely. It will result in the destruction of vast amounts of wildlife refuge land. And it’s a terrible step back for the borderlands,” said Laiken Jordahl, a southwest conservation advocate for the Centre for Biological Diversity, on Wednesday afternoon.
Between 2017 and January 2021, the Trump administration constructed around 450 miles of border wall.
After the Biden administration discontinued them at the outset of his presidency, Texas Governor Greg Abbott relaunched them.
The DHS decision contrasts with the Biden administration’s rhetoric, which claimed in a declaration to cease construction on 20 Jan. 2021, that “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.”
Customs and Border Protection in the United States did not respond immediately.
The announcement sparked political discussion in the Democratic administration, which has seen an increase in the number of migrants entering the country across the southern border in recent months, including hundreds who crossed through Eagle Pass at the end of September.
“A border wall is a fourteenth-century solution to a twenty-first-century problem.” It will not improve border security in Starr County, according to U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar. “I continue to stand against the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on an ineffective border wall.”
Political supporters of the border wall said the waivers should serve as a springboard for a policy shift.
“After years of denying that a border wall and other physical barriers are effective, the DHS announcement represents a sea change in the administration’s thinking: A secure wall is an effective tool for maintaining control of our borders,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“Having made that concession, the administration needs to immediately begin construction of wall across the border to prevent the illegal traffic from simply moving to other areas of the border.”