WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Homeland Security announced late Monday Trump administration orders to waive environmental rules so extra barriers can be built to bar illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican border into San Diego.
A DHS spokesperson says the move was necessary because the area is one of the busiest U.S. border sections with Mexico and is the sight of some of the highest volume of illegal entries.
“The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads,” the DHS said.
According to DHS reports, more than 31,000 illegal aliens were taken into custody at the location and more than 9,000 pounds (4,000 kg) of marijuana and 1,317 pounds (597 kg) of cocaine were seized in the area in 2016.
“CBP officers maintain a strong work ethic and are committed to combating drug trafficking at our ports of entry,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego, in a statement. “The drug trafficking organizations attempt to deceive us but we remain vigilant and will continue to apprehend those who attempt entry with contraband.”
The barriers, which will encompass about 15 miles of the frontier extending east from the Pacific Ocean, are part of President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Government estimates put the cost of the wall at about $21 billion, an amount that President Trump insists he will force Mexico to cover, but thus far Mexico has refused to comply.
Environmentalists and anti-border activists have been quick to cry foul over the waiver despite a 2005 mandate that gives Homeland Security broad authority to waive any law that could impede expeditious construction of barriers and roads.
American Oversight, a watchdog committee that has sued the Trump administration over similar issues, said the DHS statement was “proof” that Trump will “barrel ahead” with his plan to build the wall, no matter the cost to environment.
“Given the widespread skepticism towards the effectiveness of the border wall by leaders in both parties … effective safeguards are more important than ever,” American Oversight’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a released statement.
Despite the protests a Trump administration spokesperson said the president has no plans on backing down on his highly touted campaign promise to build the wall and said the waiver is just the first further proof of the president’s intent to keep his word.
The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a $68 billion spending package that includes funds to begin the wall’s construction.