Officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed a waiver of environmental regulations on Tuesday to allow construction of upgrades to the border wall and new wall prototype projects to break ground.
The department issued the waivers to bypass “certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international border near San Diego,” according to information obtained by Breitbart Texas from DHS officials.
DHS stated the agency has the authority to waive these requirements under laws passed by Congress to enable securing the border with Mexico. That authority stems from Section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), signed by then-President Bill Clinton. Congress updated the law five times under the George W. Bush Administration.
The waiver allows construction to proceed in the San Diego Sector where upgrades to existing border fences are already approved. The waivers will also allow new border wall prototype projects to begin construction immediately, officials stated.
Breitbart Texas reported in July that preparations for the prototype construction projects are underway. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began drilling and taking soil samples to determine what particular type of wall would be compatible with specific geographic regions. DHS previously classified the San Diego and Rio Grande Valley Sectors as priorities for early development of President Trump’s promised border walls. The president asked for $1.6 billion for the FY 2018 budget to build walls, primarily in South Texas, Breitbart Texas reported in May.
DHS reported the San Diego Sector is one of the most active areas for both human and drug smuggling. “In fiscal year 2016 alone, the United States Border Patrol apprehended more than 31,000 illegal aliens and seized 9,167 pounds of marijuana and 1,317 pounds of cocaine in the San Diego Sector,” officials wrote.
In approving the waivers officials cited the IIRIRA law:
Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States. In section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress has called for the installation of additional fencing, barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border. Finally, in section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in his sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads authorized by section 102 of IIRIRA.
This waiver eliminates the DHS’s “obligation to comply” with several laws in regards to the projects described above. “the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects,” officials stated. “DHS has been coordinating and consulting — and intends to continue doing so — with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.”