Joe Biden approves new section of border wall in south Texas to curb unauthorised immigration

Joe Biden approves new section of border wall in south Texas to curb unauthorised immigration
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Fecha de publicación: 
5 October 2023
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US President Joe Biden's administration is to build a section of border wall in southern Texas, in an effort to stop rising levels of unauthorised immigration across the US-Mexico border.

Key points:

  • Building a wall was a signature policy of former president Donald Trump, and was fiercely opposed by Democrats
  • Mr Biden said in 2020 "there will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration"
  • The move marks the Biden administrations first use of sweeping executive powers

The White House announced it waived 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow border wall construction, marking the administration's first use of a sweeping executive power employed often during the Trump presidency.

During his presidential campaign in 2020, Mr Biden said he would not tear down parts of the barrier built during the Trump administration, but that he would cease construction.

"There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration," he told US news outlet NPR at the time.

The Department of Homeland Security posted the announcement on the US Federal Registry with few details outlining the construction in Starr County, Texas, which is part of a busy Border Patrol sector seeing "high illegal entry."

According to government data, about 245,000 illegal entries have been recorded so far this fiscal year in the Rio Grande Valley Sector which contains 21 counties.

Mr Bident walks beside a fence that stretches across the whole photo next two men in uniform.

President Joe Biden visited the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas earlier this year.(AP Photo: Andrew Harnik)

"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," Alejandro Mayorkas, the DHS secretary, stated in the notice.

The Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act were some of the federal laws waived by DHS to make way for construction that 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 ranch lands, sitting between Zapata and McAllen, Texas, is home to about 65,000 residents sparsely populating about 3,108 square kilometres that form part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Trump 'awaits' Biden's apology

Donald Trump is standing in front of a wall as he pumps his fist and smiles

As US president, Donald Trump toured the border wall in January 2021.(AP: Alex Brandon)

Building a wall was a signature policy of former President Donald Trump, and was fiercely opposed by Democrats.

Mr Trump took to his own social media site, Truth Social, to demand an apology from Mr Biden.

"So interesting to watch Crooked Joe Biden break every environmental law in the book to prove that I was right when I built 560 miles of brand new, beautiful border wall," he wrote.

"As I have stated often, over thousands of years, there are only two things that have consistently worked, wheels, and walls!

"I will await his apology!"

'Horrific step backwards'

Although no maps were provided in the announcement, CBP 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 32 kilometres to the existing border barrier system in the area.

You view a map of the US-Mexico border, with a diagram of the portions which have fencing.

The US-Mexico border traverses incredibly harsh desert landscapes that make it deadly to cross.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said it will start south of the Falcon Dam and go past Salineño, Texas.

"The other concern that we have is that area is highly erosive. There's a lot of arroyos," Eloy Vera, the county judge said, pointing out the creeks cutting through the ranch land and leading into the river.

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A woman, covering her head in a blanket, sits looking upward, surrounded by barbed wire

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Concern is shared with environmental advocates who say structures will run through public lands, habitats of endangered plants and species like the Ocelot, a spotted wild cat.

"A plan to build a wall through will bulldoze an impermeable barrier straight through the heart of that habitat. It will stop wildlife migrations dead in their tracks," Laiken Jordahl, a south-west conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said.

"It will destroy a huge amount of wildlife refuge land. And it's a horrific step backwards for the borderlands."

During the Trump administration, about 724 kilometres of barriers were built along the south-west border between 2017 and January 2021.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott renewed those efforts after the Biden administration halted them at the start of his presidency.

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A girl with dark hair wearing a purple top.

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The DHS decision on Wednesday contrasts the Biden administration's posturing when a proclamation to end the construction on January 20, 2021, stated, "building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution".

In a statement Wednesday, CBP said the project is consistent with that 2021 proclamation.

"Congress appropriated fiscal year 2019 funds for the construction of border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, and DHS is required to use those funds for their appropriated purpose," the statement said.

"CBP remains committed to protecting the nation's cultural and natural resources and will implement sound environmental practices as part of the project covered by this waiver."

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