by Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune
On Wednesday, the Federal Register pre-published a notice by the Department of Homeland Security that outlines plans for about 17 miles of a new barrier in Hidalgo County.
For the second time this week, President Donald Trump’s administration has announced its intent to proceed with parts of a new border barrier despite a lack of new funding from Congress to pay for his high-profile campaign promise.
On Wednesday, the Federal Register pre-published a notice by the Department of Homeland Security that outlines plans for about 17 miles of new construction of a barrier on the state’s southern border. The document, which is scheduled for official publication Thursday, states that the department will waive several federal regulations to move forward with a barrier covering territory in Hidalgo County. Money for the project will come from the agencies current appropriations.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, pursuant to law, that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border of the United States in Hidalgo County in the State of Texas,” the notice states.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the proposed blueprint for the project indicates the barrier would cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel, as well as hundreds of family farms and other private property.
“It’s appalling that the Trump administration is willing to seize family farms by eminent domain and bulldoze beautiful nature reserves that support the local economy,” Laiken Jordahl, the borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Trump is ripping the Rio Grande Valley in two for political sport. His despicable disregard for the law and the borderlands must be stopped.”
The notice comes after Tuesday’s announcement that it will waive regulations to build gates and roads along the existing border fence in Cameron County. That follows last month’s announcement that four miles of new, 18-foot tall bollard fencing would be built in El Paso’s historic Chihuahuita neighborhood, and a groundbreaking in April for 20 miles of new barrier in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, which is just a few miles west of El Paso.
It’s unclear what the new barrier in the Rio Grande Valley will look like, and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman could not provide details on a timeline for the project.
Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to crack down on unauthorized entries on the southwest barrier, the border has seen a continued upswing in traffic. In August, the number of undocumented immigrant family units apprehended along the U.S. border with Mexico spiked by nearly 40 percent compared to July, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.
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