Residents of Starr County in Texas, particularly those with land along the Rio Grande, are bracing for construction after the Biden administration said it would waive dozens of federal laws and regulations to begin erecting new sections of border wall. The decision to build about 17 miles of new fencing in Starr County angered many Democrats, who accused President Biden of going back on a campaign promise. However, it coincided with a surge of unauthorized crossings along many parts of the southern border in recent weeks that has overwhelmed communities in Texas, Arizona, and California, and posed a formidable political challenge to Biden, the New York Times reports. By waiving laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act last week in an effort to speed construction, the administration signaled the urgency of the situation, “an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, even as the president himself said that he did not believe that barriers worked.
Because the area has not seen a recent surge in migration, the barrier construction in Starr County is unlikely to have an impact on the number of arrivals along the border, at least in the short term, local officials said.
“We were told that this was to curtail the flow of illegal immigrants into the country,” said Judge Eloy Vera, the county’s top official. “If that is the case, and that is what it’s for, then it’s being built in the wrong place.” A better location in Texas, Vera suggested, would be around El Paso or Eagle Pass, where hundreds and sometimes well over 1,000 migrants have been arriving each day. The Biden administration has said that its renewed construction of a federal border barrier in Starr County was required by Congress in a budget passed during the Trump administration. It was based on plans that had already been in the works for the county, whose roughly 66,000 mostly Hispanic residents live just upstream from the mostly densely populated urban centers of the Rio Grande Valley. B