Trump orders Homeland Security to waive regulations to expedite border wall construction

A document was released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Tuesday which waives “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” near San Diego.

The document was dated July 26, 2017, and signed by then-secretary of DHS, John Kelly.

The ruling applies to a 15-mile section along the border in the San Diego area, starting at the Pacific Ocean and extending eastward, where plans are in place to upgrade the fencing and build border wall prototypes as the area is a hotbed for illegal immigrant crossings. Construction of the prototypes was supposed to start this summer but has been delayed until November.

The DHS said in a statement that there is “an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads.”

In the ruling, the DHS said the San Diego Sector is “one of the busiest Sectors in the Nation,” and listed, as an example, in the fiscal year 2016 alone, that Border Patrol apprehended over 31,000 illegal aliens crossing in that area, and seized an estimated 9,167 pounds of marijuana and around 1,317 pounds of cocaine.

Homeland Security stated in the document that plans include replacing existing fencing in the area, which was built in the early 1990s and is no longer optimal for Border Patrol operations.

The Homeland Security document provides an exemption from border barrier projects having to comply with certain environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act. In all, 37 rules and regulations are impacted by the waiver.

The Hill noted that earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sued Homeland Security, requesting an updated environmental review of the border infrastructure projects. An attorney for the group claimed that “[b]ulldozing beloved wildlife refuges won’t make us safer.”

In a separate report, sources who attended a private briefing in Aspen, Colorado, two weeks ago between Gen. Kelly and some of the nation’s senior national security officials reported that Kelly informed them he had advised President Trump that a physical wall isn’t necessary along the entire southern border.

According to an opinion editorial published in The New Yorker Monday, sources have reported that Gen. John Kelly, the former Homeland Security secretary, now newly-appointed White House chief of staff, may have convinced President Trump to give up on his plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

CNN contributor Ryan Lizza, writing in The New Yorker, stated that he was told by “several sources” who attended a private briefing in Aspen, Colorado, two weeks ago between Kelly and some of the nation’s senior national security officials, that Kelly had assured them he believed he had convinced Trump that a physical wall wasn’t necessary along the entire border.

Kelly reportedly explained that he had spent a lot of time discussing the matter with the president and advised him that the border could be secured by using sophisticated monitoring technology, air surveillance and fencing.

Instead of pushing for a wall along the border, he said Trump could start using the term “barrier.”

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