Joe Biden announced the cancellation of 26 federal laws in Texas to allow for the construction of a border wall.

Joe Biden announced the cancellation of 26 federal laws in Texas to allow for the construction of a border wall.

On October 4th, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced the cancellation of 26 federal laws in Texas to allow for the construction of a border wall. This marked the first instance of the Biden administration using the broad executive authority often employed during the presidency of Donald Trump. AP News reported this development.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted the relevant announcement in the Federal Register of the United States without providing details about the construction in Starr County, Texas, which is part of a busy border patrol sector experiencing a "high level of illegal crossing." According to government data, there have been approximately 245,000 illegal border crossings in the Rio Grande Valley sector, encompassing 21 counties, in this fiscal year.

"There is presently a pressing and urgent need for the construction of physical barriers near the U.S. border to prevent unlawful entry into the United States in project areas," stated Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Among the federal laws that DHS has waived are the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act to make way for construction. The waiver of these laws allows the avoidance of cumbersome environmental reviews and potential legal challenges related to environmental legislation.

Starr County, situated between the cities of Zapata and McAllen in Texas, is home to approximately 65,000 residents occupying around 1,200 square miles (3,108 square kilometers), which are part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Environmental advocates are concerned that the construction will take place on state lands, habitats of endangered plants and species, such as the ocelot, a spotted wild cat. "The plan to build a wall would put an impenetrable barrier right through the heart of this habitat. It will stop the migration of wildlife. It will destroy vast amounts of wildlife refuge habitat. It's a terrible step backward for borderlands," said Laiken Jordahl, a Southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

During the Trump administration from 2017 to January 2021, approximately 450 miles (724 kilometers) of barriers were built along the southwest border. Texas Governor Greg Abbott resumed these efforts after the Biden administration halted them at the beginning of his presidency.

The decision by DHS on September 4th contrasts with the Biden administration's position in a statement issued on January 20, 2021, when they announced the cessation of wall construction. The statement at the time said, "Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution."

CBP (Customs and Border Protection) stated that the project aligns with the 2021 statement. "Congress appropriated funds for border barrier construction in the Rio Grande Valley in fiscal year 2019, and DHS is obligated to use these funds for their intended purpose. CBP remains committed to the protection of our nation's cultural and natural resources and will employ sound environmental stewardship methods as part of this project, which falls under this waiver," the statement said.

This decision has stirred political debate within the Democratic administration, which has been grappling with an increase in migrants crossing the southern border in recent months, including thousands who entered the U.S. through Eagle Pass at the end of September. "Building a border wall is a 21st-century problem solved with 14th-century tools. A wall will not secure the border in Starr County," said Congressman Henry Cuellar. "I continue to stand against the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on an ineffective border wall."

Political supporters of the border wall argued that the waiver of laws should be used as a starting point for policy change. "After years of denying the effectiveness of border wall and other physical barriers, DHS' announcement represents a change in the administration's thinking," said Dan Stein, President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "A reliable wall is an effective tool to maintain control of our borders. By making this concession, the administration should immediately commence building the wall along the entire border to prevent a simple shift of illegal traffic to other border areas."

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