The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday it has issued a waiver to get around environmental rules and speed up border construction projects near San Diego, one of the country’s busiest border sectors.
In fiscal year 2016 alone, the United States Border Patrol apprehended more than 31,000 illegal aliens and seized 9,167 pounds of marijuana and 1,317 pounds of cocaine in the San Diego sector.
“The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads,” DHS said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“To begin to meet the need for additional border infrastructure in this area, DHS will implement various border infrastructure projects. These projects will focus on an approximately 15-mile segment of the border within the San Diego Sector that starts at the Pacific Ocean and extends eastward, to approximately one mile east of what is known as Border Monument 251,” DHS explained.
The waiver will allow DHS to bypass “environmental, natural resource, and land management laws” that would otherwise restrain these construction projects.
DHS said the waiver will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days.
“While the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects,” DHS said in the statement.
“DHS has been coordinating and consulting — and intends to continue doing so — with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible,” the statement continued.
President Donald Trump took executive action in January that mandated a wall be constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s not clear if the waiver is in regard to maintenance of the current structure or creates additional border security structures.