by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas waived 26 federal laws Wednesday, allowing border-wall construction in south Texas to resume under the Biden administration for the first time since former president Donald Trump left office.
“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 wrote in the notice.
The new construction project will add an additional 20 miles to the border wall in Starr County, Texas, which has been reported as an area experiencing “high illegal entry.” Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, in which the county is located, has seen over 245,000 illegal migrants enter the U.S. through that area during fiscal year 2023.
Among the 26 laws that the DHS waived included the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, all notable environmental laws that limited further construction of the wall. The project will be funded by a congressional appropriations package from fiscal year 2019, the notice stated.
The announcement marks a noticeable flip from President Joe Biden’s original stance on the matter. “Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” Biden said in January 2021, ending the national emergency over the border crisis when he first became president.
While running against Trump in 2020, Biden emphatically stated, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.”
The plan comes as the rate of illegal immigration in the U.S. surges, with Border Patrol apprehending roughly 210,000 migrants after unlawfully crossing the border in September. This is the highest recorded level of border apprehensions in 2023.