DHS moving to speed construction of border barriers in California

DHS moving to speed construction of border barriers in California
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The Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it has waived environmental and historical preservation laws to speed improvement of fencing on the border between California and Mexico.

Under the waiver, construction of border barriers near Calexico, Calif., won't be subject to federal regulations including the Endangered Species Act or the National Historic Preservation Act.

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke published the waiver in the Federal Register, saying the El Centro Border Patrol sector — which covers the eastern half of California's border with Mexico — is "an area of high illegal entry."

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"In fiscal year 2016 alone, the United States Border Patrol ... apprehended over 19,000 illegal aliens and seized approximately 2,900 pounds of marijuana and approximately 126 pounds of cocaine," read the notice.

The Border Patrol will install 18-to-25-foot fencing in the area, replacing the existing 14-foot fencing built in the 1990s.

The waiver also covers any construction for improvement of Border Patrol service roads.

In its advisory, DHS said improvements to border barriers in El Centro sector are part of President Trump's promise to build a border wall.

"The Department is implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border," read the advisory.

Trump campaigned on the promise of building a border wall paid for by Mexico. The White House requested $1.6 billion for 2018 to begin new construction for the wall.

While Congress has yet to fund that proposal, DHS last week announced a set of prototypes to be built in the San Diego sector, west of El Centro.

Some repairs and improvements to existing border infrastructure, including the prototypes, are covered by existing budget appropriations.