DHS Issues Waiver to Expedite Border Wall Project in Rio Grande Valley

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DHS Issues Waiver to Expedite Border Wall Project in Rio Grande Valley

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a waiver, which will ensure expeditious construction of approximately 3 miles of new border wall system located west of Roma near Fronton in U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector, Rio Grande City area of responsibility, in Starr County, Texas.

The waiver was published in the Federal Register on July 1, 2019. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), will begin construction as early as September 2019. The contract for this project was awarded on May 28, 2019 to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. for the amount of $42,860,000 and includes the construction of 18-30 foot tall steel bollards, in addition to road construction, detection technology and lighting installation.

This project is funded by CBP’s Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Appropriation. It is not a project undertaken pursuant to the National Emergency Declaration, 10 U.S.C § 284, 10 U.S.C. § 2808, nor does it draw from any other source of funding, including appropriations available to the Department of Defense (DoD).

Based on language in the FY19 CBP appropriation, border wall construction for this project will not take place at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita Historical Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, within or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, or the National Butterfly Center.

This waiver is pursuant to authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security by Congress and covers a variety of environmental, natural resource, and land management laws.  Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with a number of authorities necessary to carry out DHS’s border security mission.  Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States.

In Section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress mandated the installation of additional fencing, barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border.  Finally, in Section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in the Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads authorized by Section 102 of IIRIRA.

The geographic scope of this waiver covers the area(s) defined below. This project will total approximately 3 miles of new border wall system located within this area.

  1. Starting at the southernmost boundary of the Arroyo Ramirez Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and extending north to County Road 650; and
  2. Starting approximately one-tenth (.10) of a mile north of the northernmost boundary of the Las Ruinas Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and extending to approximately one and one-half (1.5) miles south and east of the southernmost boundary of the Las Ruinas Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge

While the waiver eliminates DHS’ obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, DHS remains committed to environmental stewardship.  DHS has been coordinating and consulting, and intends to continue doing so, with other federal and state resource agencies and other interested stakeholders to ensure that impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic resources are analyzed and minimized, to the greatest extent possible.

RGV is the busiest sector in the nation and accounts for more than 40% of the illegal alien apprehensions, more than 43% of the seized marijuana in the southwest border for the fiscal year to date, and is second in seized cocaine.  RGV accounts for a large percentage of the southwest border illegal alien apprehensions and narcotic seizures and the majority of its activity is occurring in areas where RGV has limited infrastructure, access and mobility, and technology.

CBP continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 – also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – taking steps to expeditiously plan, design, and construct a physical wall using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve operational control of the southern border. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.


DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigns after meeting with Trump

By Nikki Schwab

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (middle)Getty Images
Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned Sunday.

CBS News was first to report that Nielsen was meeting with President Trump at 5 p.m. and would call it quits.

The president soon tweeted that she was out.

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service. I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary of @DHSgov,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening. “I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”

In her resignation letter, obtained by CNN, she wrote that it was “the right time to step aside.”

“I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse,” she said.

“Our country and the men and women of DHS deserve to have all the tools and resources they need to execute the mission entrusted in them. I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the Administration,” she added.

She’s been long expected to depart the administration.

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Last May, the Washington Post reported that the president berated the DHS secretary in a cabinet meeting for more than 30 minutes over the flow of central American migrants coming from Mexico into the United States. Even then Trump was threatening to “close down” the border – a threat he again made last month, only to back down this week and pressure Mexico with car tariffs instead.

“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening,” Trump said at the time. “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

The New York Times reported then that Nielsen told her colleagues she came close to resigning.

Nielsen was on better footing in June, when she became the administration’s face for family separations, impressing the president at a press conference held in the White House briefing room where she blamed Congress for not fixing immigration loopholes that contributed to the problem. This was an about-face from Senate testimony she had given in which she aired concerns about migrant children being placed with guardians or other family members instead of their parents.

Despite taking ownership over one of the administration’s most controversial issues, in November, the Washington Post reported that Nielsen was on the verge of being pushed out of the job by Trump, according to current and former White House officials.

Nielsen’s former boss, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, was reportedly trying to help her keep the job.

By early December Kelly announced his own departure from the White House.

This week the DHS secretary was caught flat-footed when the president announced that he was pulling the nomination of Ronald Vitiello as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the Washington Examiner.

Trump said he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction.

Vitiello’s demise came at the hands of Stephen Miller, who has also complained about Nielsen.

The president has continued to be frustrated by the flow of migrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico, who have been overwhelming American resources.

“Illegal migration, we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full. The sector is full. We can’t take you anymore. Turn around. That’s the way it is,” Trump said when he visited Southern California on Friday – a trip he took with both Nielsen and her replacement.


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