The Biden administration will waive 26 laws to build additional border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, according to a notice posted to the federal register Wednesday, citing “high illegal entry.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a filing posted in the US Federal Registry that the Department of Homeland Security had concluded “it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads” in Starr County, Texas, along the US border with Mexico.
Federal authorities are grappling with a new surge of migrants which has strained federal resources and fueled concerns in cities nationwide. Mayorkas referred to the area in the Rio Grande Valley as an area of “high illegal entry.” Border Patrol reported nearly 300,000 encounters in the Rio Grande Valley sector between last October and August, according to federal data.
Construction of the wall, according to the notice, will be paid for through a 2019 appropriations bill that funneled money specifically to a “border barrier” in the Rio Grande Valley, and according to Mayorkas, “DHS is required to use those funds for their appropriated purpose.”
“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 in the project areas,” Mayorkas said in the notice.
US Customs and Border Protection had previously announced plans to design and construct up to 20 miles of new border barrier systems in Starr County including light poles and lighting, gates, cameras and access roads, among other systems. CBP sought public input between August and September, according to the agency.
Among the laws the Biden administration is bypassing to build the wall are several of the same statutes the administration has in the past moved to protect, including: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act) and the Clean Air Act.
A CBP spokesperson said the agency “remains committed to protecting the nation’s cultural and natural resources,” while implementing “sound environmental practices” to build the border barriers.
This week, Mayorkas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House Homeland Security adviser Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall will meet with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City for annual security talks.
Migration is expected to be a topic of discussion. Senior administration officials maintain that the US has been in regular touch with Mexico over the situation at the US southern border, including commitments to shore up enforcement.
This story has been updated with additional information.