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Changing course, Homeland Security to construct border wall in Rio Grande Valley

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(The Center Square) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is waiving 26 federal laws to finish completing a wall in the Rio Grande Valley in an area where it halted construction over two years ago. It announced the change in the Federal Register on Thursday after receiving pressure from Democratic elected officials.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in the six-page filing with the Federal Register, “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,” citing sections of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

He said he “has determined, pursuant to law, that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border in Starr County, Texas.”

The statement notes that the Rio Grande Valley Sector is an area of “high illegal entry.” Border Patrol agents there have apprehended over 245,000 foreign nationals illegally entering in the southernmost part of Texas between ports of entry fiscal year through early August, it states. Since then, at least another 46,913 and 46,000 were apprehended in August and September, respectively, according to preliminary data obtained by The Center Square. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

These numbers also exclude gotaways, those who illegally enter and seek to evade capture. More than 1.6 million gotaways have been reported illegally entering the US since Biden’s been in office. Over 8 million have illegally entered since the president’s been in office, totaling more than the individual populations of 38 states.

“DHS will take immediate action to construct barriers and roads,” the 6-page DHS notice states. “Construction will be funded by a fiscal year 2019 appropriation through which Congress appropriated funds for the construction border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, and DHS is required to use those funds for their appropriated purpose.”

It also states that Mayorkas can take “such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads (including the removal of obstacles to detection of illegal entrants) in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of ‘high illegal entry into the United States.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents, under orders, already cut concertina wire put up by Texas in Brownsville, in the Rio Grande Valley, and in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a surge of illegal foreign nationals coming through. In response, Gov. Greg Abbott said he was deploying more resources to the area.

“Texas installed razor wire in Eagle Pass to stop illegal crossings” and the Biden administration “CUT that wire, opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants. I immediately deployed more Texas National Guard to repel illegal crossings & install more razor wire,” Abbott said in response.

Mayorkas’ announcement comes after record numbers of people also poured in through the southwest border in the last few months, including a record more than 261,000 in August and over 255,000 last month. Tens of thousands more traveled to the U.S. after the administration expanded its policy to facilitate and expand entry to citizens from eight countries: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Thousands began pouring into Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, in the last few weeks, with a large number coming from Venezuela.

Abbott launched a border security mission, Operation Lone Star, in April 2021, and Texas began building its own border wall in different areas in Texas last June.

On Wednesday, Abbott showed where the state was building its wall in Brownsville.

Texas is building the border wall. This is today near Brownsville. pic.twitter.com/T5uWitVhsG— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 5, 2023

The statutes Mayorkas waived include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act) and the Clean Air Act. All of these statutes were used by the administration to halt border wall construction, claiming there was a greater need than border security to protect a wildflower and two freshwater mussels.

Plans to build the federal wall include starting:

one mile south of the Falcon Dam extending southeast two milesat the Arroyo Morteros Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, extending southeast one mileat the northernmost boundary of the Las Ruinas Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, extending north one mileat the eastern boundary of the Arroyo Ramirez Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, extending east a half mileone-half mile south of the intersection of Perez Road and U.S. Highway 83 and generally following the Rio Grande River to one-quarter mile south and east of the intersection of Leos Road and U.S. Highway 83three-quarters of a mile southeast of the intersection of North Redwoods Street and U.S. Highway 83 and extending southeast to the northwest boundary of the Los Velas West Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refugeapproximately one-tenth of a mile south of the intersection of Trophy Street and Moonbeam Street, extending east one mile south of the intersection of Los Olmitos Road and Farm to Market Road 1430one mile south of the intersection of Los Olmitos Road and Farm to Market Road 1430, extending southeast to the northwest boundary of the La Casita East Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refugeapproximately one mile south of the intersection of Mission Street and Old Military Highway, extending southeast for approximately 1.75 milesat the northeast boundary of the Villareales Banco Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, extending east to the western boundary of the of the Cuevitas Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

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