McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Environmentalists and local leaders in South Texas were furious after learning Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security has waived environmental regulations in three counties in order to expedite construction of 65 new border wall.
DHS on Thursday announced that it had issued a waiver to hasten new border wall construction in the counties of Hidalgo, Starr and Cameron. The waiver was published in the Federal Registry on Thursday, and “will ensure expeditious construction of approximately 65 miles of new border wall system within U.S. Border Patrol’s (USBP) Rio Grande Valley Sector,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.
“President Trump continues to blatantly misappropriate government funds, ignore the pleas of Texas landowners and seize land like a medieval feudal lord,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district includes Hidalgo County, said in a news release.
Scott Nicol, who is on the executive committee of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club told Border Report that “waiving laws is a clear admission that Trump’s border wall will violate those laws.”
The waivers will allow construction to begin despite environmental regulations that protect endangered species, and laws pertaining to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Nicol, who also is co-chairman of the Borderlands committee, added: “There is no reason to waive the Safe Drinking Water Act unless their plans will threaten our drinking water. They are waiving the Endangered Species Act because they know that border walls will push endangered species closer to extinction.”
Jonathan Salinas of the No Border Wall coalition called the waivers “a hit-list,” to South Texas.
“Today’s waivers are but another reminder that in the name of national security all things are possible, including wholesale disregard for the human and environmental rights of border residents. These waivers virtually cover the whole of the Lower Río Grande Valley not yet waived, including wildlife refuge tracts which are intended to protect and preserve that which the government is now intending to destroy,” said Salinas, who also serves on the executive committee of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.
Some areas will be exempt from border wall construction in South Texas, including: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita Historical Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, within or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, or the National Butterfly Center, DHS said. This is because Congress refused to fund border wall construction if those areas were included.
At question is still whether a one-third mile section of Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, in Alamo, Texas, will be exempt from construction. This section had been purchased by Santa Ana from private landowners and appears to be on border wall construction plans released by CBP.
This is not the first time the Trump Administration has waived environmental regulations in order to build new border wall miles on the Southwest border. And as the 2020 presidential election nears, President Donald Trump has increasingly boasted on Twitter with regularity about the number of border wall miles already built, under construction and about to begin.
CBP said the waivers were needed to quickly fill in gaps in the existing border wall because the Rio Grande Sector accounts for 40 percent of all migrant apprehensions in the nation, and ranks No. 1 for seizure of cocaine and marijuana on the Southwest border.
Said Rep. Gonzalez: “We do need to secure our border and crack down on criminal activities. But that is done best by engaging with our Mexican and Central American neighbors to address the violence and economic opportunity in their countries and investing in technology and human capital — not building a frivolous border wall.”
The cost for the 65 miles of new border wall in the three counties could total $811 million, CBP has said.
The waivers come just as 300 National Guard troops have arrived in the region to help patrol the existing border wall and new construction areas, U.S. Border Patrol told Border Report. The National Guard troops will relieve U.S. Army soldiers.
Many residents in South Texas are angry by what they call a “militarized” presence. Read a previous Border Report story on the ‘militarization’ of the region.
“We call on the U.S. Congress to repeal this waiver authority which allows the executive branch to legally commit crimes against humanity,” Salinas said.
Trending Now on We Build the Wall News
Leftist Panic Sets In As Trump Suspends All Immigration
President Donald J. Trump said Monday night on Twitter that he will suspend immigration to the United States amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he said.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
Last week, unemployment claims in the United States soared to about 25 million after state mandated lockdowns closed businesses around the country.
With millions of Americans unemployed, some elected officials and candidates called for an immigration halt.
“25 million Americans are unemployed today. All immigration should be halted until every citizen who wants a job has a job,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said on April 17.
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) April 17, 2020
Former U.S. Attorney General and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama Jeff Sessions called for an immigration halt last week on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
This week, I called on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY halt immigration to the United States until Americans are back to work. https://t.co/FBmHQVhtFO
— Jeff Sessions (@jeffsessions) April 18, 2020
Immigration hardliners, including this reporter, have renewed calls for a full moratorium on immigration to the United States since last summer. Foreign guest workers have long replaced American workers at the behest of cheap labor lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
Though the details of the Executive Order have not been released, President Trump’s Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement about the announcement.
“President Trump is committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented times,” she said. “As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African Americans and Latino workers.’ At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”
The United States closed its borders to non-essential travelers at the end of March.
Reports: Trump Suspends Guest Worker Visas Amid Pandemic
Amid the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and the United States’ rapidly growing unemployment rate, President Donald J. Trump’s administration Thursday announced that it will suspend additional seasonal work visas.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the halt of the visa program via Twitter.
“To clear up various misreporting – DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice,” DHS said.
To clear up various misreporting – DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice. Per the statute, H-2B allocations are set in consultation with @USDOL.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) April 2, 2020
H-2B visas are commonly known as “low-skilled” worker visas. H-2B recipients often work in landscaping, agriculture, or service industry jobs in restaurants or hotels.
According to Fox News, seasonal guest worker visas are capped 66,000, but Congress had authorized a 64,000 visa increase for this summer.
“The extra visas were to be made available in two batches: 20,000 starting April 1, and a second batch starting May 15. But amid dire economic news, DHS has suspended the cap increase,” Fox reported.
Tucker Carlson sounded the alarm about the guest worker visas on his primetime cable news show Wednesday night, citing the previous 3.3 million unemployment claims from last week.
There’s a reason why @TuckerCarlson has become the most TRUSTED man in mainstream news. He LISTENS to the concerns of Americans & reports on it immediately.
Here he is asking why are we bringing in H-1B/H-2B visa workers at a time of HIGH unemployment:
— U.S. Tech Workers (@USTechWorkers) April 2, 2020
With Thursday’s news of 10 million American unemployment claims stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration hawks — who are normally opposed increases in guest worker visas — have noted that Americans could use the jobs.
RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an immigration restrictionist group, spoke to Fox about the suspended visas. He called for even stricter immigration measures while the United States deals with the pandemic.
“This is a step in the right direction and should be applauded,” he said. “However, 10 million have lost their jobs in the past few weeks and it will get worse. American workers need more — a complete moratorium on guest worker admissions. President Trump has the authority and should use it.”
President Trump has closed the borders with Mexico and Canada to all non-essential travelers for the duration of the pandemic.