Once again, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has chosen to bypass a whole load of environmental legislation so that President Trump can have his wall. The notice of determination issued on Monday refers to a 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) stretch near the Californian city of Calexico, where ThinkProgress reports construction is planned to begin next February.
According to the notice, it is necessary to waive laws protecting land and wildlife "to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border of the United States near the city of Calexico in the state of California." Last month, the department issued a similar notice for a section of wall to be built in San Diego.
Congress gave the DHS the legal authority to waive environmental, land management, and natural resource law in the name of national security, but this power is very, very rarely used. Aside from the San Diego notice, the last time it was enforced was in 2008 during the Bush era.
Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, has called Calexico "an area of high illegal entry". Last year, the United States Border Control caught over 19,400 immigrants attempting to cross the US-Mexican border and seized roughly 1,314 kilograms (2,899 pounds) of marijuana and 57 kilograms (126 pounds) of cocaine.
The plan is to replace the existing wall (4.3 meters/14 feet tall) with a bigger one (5.5-7.6 meters/18-25 feet high) that "employs a more operationally effective design that is intended to meet Border Patrol's operational requirements."
The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act are just some of the pieces of legislation the contractors will be allowed to bypass when building Trump's wall.
Although this is just a 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) strip, Trump has been extremely vocal about his desire to build a wall across the entirety of the US-Mexico border. This is an area that spans 3,050 kilometers (1,900 miles).
From an environmental and wildlife perspective, it would be devastating if it were to go ahead. More than 700 species of animals cross the border every year as part of their annual migration pattern and the fate of 93 species of endangered, threatened and vulnerable animals would be put in danger, say the Center for Biological Diversity.
Rep. Juan Vargas sums it up perfectly: “It is irresponsible for the Department of Homeland Security to waive laws that have been put in place to preserve our lands, safeguard our history, and protect our environment. The public health of our communities should be a priority for a federal agency whose mission is to keep Americans safe,” he said, ThinkProgress reports.