Thursday, October 5, 2023

Federal Agency Waives 26 Laws to Allow Border Wall Construction*1bvju40*_gcl_au*Njc5MzU5NDUzLjE2OTY1MzU3OTU. 

The Biden administration, in an about-face to its previous stance, declared Wednesday that there was an “immediate need” to expedite the construction of U.S.-Mexico border walls in Starr County, Texas, in response to the ever-growing number of illegal entries by migrants.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he will waive dozens of federal regulations—26 in total—in order to fast-track the construction of roads and barriers along the southern border in Texas.

The new barriers will be built within the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector. These areas were designated “high illegal entry” zones and construction efforts will focus on these locations.

These areas encompass the vicinity of the Falcon Dam, the Arroyo Morteros Tract, the Las Ruinas Tract, the Arroyo Ramirez Tract, intersections of major roads like Perez Road and U.S. Highway 83, as well as various tracts within the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Mr. Mayorkas issued the waiver and determination on Wednesday (pdf) citing U.S. Border Patrol figures that show more than 245,000 migrants have illegally crossed the border at Starr County since early August.

“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “Therefore, I must use my authority under section 102 of IIRIRA to install additional physical barriers and roads in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. Therefore, DHS will take immediate action to construct barriers and roads.”

DHS intends to fund the construction project using appropriations allocated by Congress during the Trump administration in 2019 for the purpose of building the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley.

In order to build the walls and roads to deter illegal immigration, Mr. Mayorkas determined that it is necessary, under Section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), to “waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements.”

The waived statutes include several environmental and conservation laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, among others. While the waiver grants exceptions to a wide range of statutes, DHS noted that it does not revoke or supersede any previously granted waivers issued pursuant to Section 102(c) of IIRIRA.

Mr. Mayorkas retained the authority to issue more waivers if he deems it necessary to meet the objectives outlined in the legislation.

Need for Border Wall

Republicans, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have blamed Biden administration policies for the unprecedented illegal immigration numbers, such as rolling back Trump-era measures and ending border wall construction.

In early 2021, the Biden administration stopped the ongoing construction of a border wall after the Democratic president took office. He contended that former President Donald Trump’s focus on constructing the wall was misguided and an example of his purported inability to secure the border and manage immigration.

On Monday, Mexico’s president warned that the United States will soon see around 10,000 migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border every day. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that his warning is based on the number of migrants crossing from Guatemala into Mexico every day for the past week.

Mexico, which is the United States’ largest trading partner, provides a government-run bus service, sending migrants from the country’s southern region to its northern border with the United States.

Mr. Mayokas’s announcement also comes one day ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Mexico, where he and other administration officials will meet with officials to discuss shared security, health, and public safety issues.

On Wednesday, Mr. Blinken said that the United States and Mexico share a “mutual responsibility” regarding the current fentanyl and illegal immigration crisis that must be tackled through cooperation between the two countries.

A synthetic opioid, fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin and was responsible for 70 percent of deaths by overdose or poisoning in 2022. Enough fentanyl has been trafficked into the United States through the southern border to kill every American citizen, with the Drug Enforcement Administration saying it has seized more than 387.9 million potentially lethal doses in 2022.

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