The Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security waived 26 federal laws in South Texas, including the Clean Air Act, to allow for construction of the border wall in the area, the Associated Press reports. Other laws waived include the Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act. The stretch of border wall in Starr County, Tex., is located in an area of 21 counties where about 245,000 illegal entries have been recorded this fiscal year. The stretch of construction will use funds from a congressional appropriation in 2019 for border wall construction. The waivers avoid time-consuming reviews and lawsuits challenging violation of environmental laws. Starr County’s hilly ranchlands, sitting between Zapata and McAllen, Texas, are home to about 65,000 residents sparsely populating about 1,200 square miles that form part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The Customs and Border Protection agency announced the project in June and began gathering public comments in August when it shared a map of the additional construction that can add up to 20 miles to the existing border barrier system in the area. Environmental advocates say structures will run through public lands, habitats of endangered plants and species like the Ocelot, a spotted wild cat. The DHS decision on Wednesday contrasts with the Biden administration said on Jan. 20, 2021, “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.” On Wednesday, CBP said the project is consistent with that 2021 proclamation.