Homeland Security Dept. Waives Environmental Rules for Border Wall

Published April 3, 2018

To speed up construction of part of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is waiving more than 30 environmental rules for a segment of the wall in New Mexico.

In a January notice in the Federal Register, DHS stated the waiver is necessary to ensure the “expeditious construction of barriers” near the Santa Teresa Land Port of Entry.

“The Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, pursuant to law, that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border of the United States,” the statement said.

DHS says the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector is an area of high illegal entry in need of border barriers and roads. This necessitated the waiver, which allows the administration to begin replacing vehicle barriers with walls along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border west of El Paso, Texas at the New Mexico border port of entry.

‘Well Within’ the Law

Environmental laws often include national-security exemptions for activities carried out by the U.S. armed forces and related to border security. The U.S. Navy has received waivers from various environmental laws to carry out naval operations and perform sonar training, for example.

Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the DHS environmental waivers are legal and may actually benefit certain species.

“DHS is well within the Code of Federal Regulations in waiving certain environmental rules in order to speed construction of segments of a Mexico-U.S. border fence,” Arnold said. “The irony is the fence segment may also help biologists sort and identify members of rare and endangered border-crossing species such as the jaguar, some of which may permanently inhabit New Mexico and some of which are likely occasional Mexican intruders.

“Knowing which is which might help track the species and map their travel paths, leading to actions to promote recovery efforts,” said Arnold. “Fence-building may uncover many unexpected benefits.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.