More wall waivers filed for Starr Co. construction

The Trump administration has registered new border wall waivers for Starr County in its efforts to make good on a campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Filed Wednesday, the new waivers would allow for construction of physical barriers and walls without the formal environmental studies and other procedural steps typical of this type of construction along the border.

The “project areas” are the following: west boundary of Salineno, Texas, along the Rio Grande, south and east to the southern boundary of Salineno, west of the Los Negros Creek Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge following along the river, west of Rio Grande City extending east approximately 215 feet southeast of the international bridge.

The waivers are the newest to be filed by the Trump administration as it tries to fulfill a campaign promise of President Trump’s to secure the nation’s borders with Mexico to stem illegal drugs and human smuggling into the U.S.

As is standard in the filing, the waiver underscores the region’s apprehension rate as a reason for the need for the physical barriers.

“The United States Border Patrol’s (Border Patrol) Rio Grande Valley Sector is an area of high illegal entry. In fiscal year 2019, the Border Patrol apprehended over 339,000 illegal aliens attempting to enter the United States between border crossings in the Rio Grande Valley Sector,” the filing states. “In that same time period, the Border Patrol had over 1,000 drug-related events between border crossings in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, through which it seized over 122,000 pounds of marijuana, over 2,500 pounds of cocaine, over 90 pounds of heroin, over 1,700 pounds of methamphetamine, and over 11 pounds of fentanyl.”

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf said in the filing: “… I hereby waive in their entirety, with respect to the construction of physical barriers and roads (including, but not limited to, accessing the project areas, creating and using staging areas, the conduct of earthwork, excavation, fill, and site preparation, and installation and upkeep of physical barriers, roads, supporting elements, drainage, erosion controls, safety features, lighting, cameras, and sensors) in the project areas.”

The waivers would impact the cities of Salineno, Rio Grande City, Roma, and La Grulla, and are the 28th such waivers filed by the Trump administration since 2016.

Representatives with the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group based in Tucson, Arizona, who have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration related to wall construction in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, said the president is bypassing the Constitution in his efforts to build his long-promised wall on the border.

The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the Trump administration to challenge border wall construction in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, and near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico as well as for the emergency declaration.

Those lawsuits remain pending.

“Trump is endangering lives by allowing border wall construction during the pandemic, and now he’s fast-tracking walls through Texas communities,” Laiken Jordahl, a borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “These new waivers mean Texas families will lose their homes, wildlife will die and people will be walled off forever from the beautiful Rio Grande. Trump’s priorities are delusional in this time of crisis. All border wall construction must stop now.”