DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is citing an “acute and immediate need” to waive dozens of federal laws in order to build a border wall in south Texas where illegal migration has surged, a sharp contrast to dismissals of the use of such barriers in the early days of the administration.
The agency posted an announcement on the U.S. Federal Registry which outlines construction in Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley Sector — where the administration says there is “high illegal entry.” The agency says there have been over 245,000 migrant encounters in the sector this fiscal year.
Mayorkas says he is using his authority provided by Congress to waive 26 federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas pursuant to sections 102(a) and 102(b) of [the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996],” Mayorkas said.
The administration had put a halt to new border wall construction in early 2021, after then-candidate Biden had promised there would be “not another foot of wall constructed during my administration.” The administration said that wall construction under the Trump administration was “just one example of the prior Administration’s misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly, and humane way.”
However, the construction is funded by the FY 2019 DHS appropriations bill, which DHS is required to use for its appropriated purpose. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had announced its plans for up to 20 miles of wall in the RGV Sector in June. The administration has also previously made moves to close gaps and replace gates.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration is facing a fresh surge in illegal immigration, leading to record-high numbers at the southern border and intense political criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sources told Fox News last week that there were more than 260,000 encounters in September — which would be the highest monthly total on record.
Republicans have blamed the historic numbers on the Biden administration’s policies — including its rolling back of Trump-era policies and its ending of border wall construction. The administration has also drawn criticism from Republicans for selling off border wall materials, and also for suing Texas over a border barrier it built in the Rio Grande itself.
“President Trump is always right,” the Trump campaign said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “That’s why he built close to 500 miles of powerful new wall on the border and it would have been finished by now. Instead, Crooked Joe Biden turned our country into one giant sanctuary for dangerous criminal aliens.”
The administration has said that Congress needs to provide more funding and pass legislation to fix the “broken” system within which it says it is working.
Meanwhile, it is being hit by growing calls for more action from liberal states and cities that have themselves been overwhelmed by the escalating numbers — including ways to limit illegal immigrants from coming in.
“Well, we want them to have a limit on who can come across the border. It is too open right now,” NY Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Sunday. “People coming from all over the world are finding their way through simply saying they need asylum.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Bill Melugin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.