In a surprising reversal of its prior stance on border wall construction, the Biden administration recently announced that it would be erecting a stretch of new barrier in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, a move that prompted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to turn on the president, as Fox News reports.
The move, as revealed by the White House last week, would require a waiver of 26 different federal laws – including some environmental regulations – to build a section of the border wall in Starr County, Texas, an area that has seen a dramatic increase in migrant encounters in recent months.
Construction to commence
According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the need for quick action at the border has become evident, and there is sufficient legal justification to bypass existing laws to achieve the desired result.
Mayorkas said, “There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas pursuant to sections 102(a) and 102(b) of [the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996].
Among the statutes to be waived as part of the border barrier project are the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
AOC turns on Biden
The White House attempted to deflect criticism of the plan by saying that funds for the construction had already been appropriated before President Joe Biden took office and that while he attempted to “redirect” the money for other purposes, Congress did not agree, essentially forcing him to move ahead with the plans for the wall.
Ocasio-Cortez, however, was not persuaded by that rationale, taking direct aim at Biden for failing to keep a promise he made on the campaign trail that “not another foot” of border wall would be built on his watch.
“The Biden administration was not required to expand construction of the border wall – and they certainly were not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building,” she said.
The progressive firebrand continued, “The president needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course.”
Environmental activists angered
Joining in the chorus of criticism were environmental activists outraged by the decision to sidestep existing protections for the area's natural resources.
Conservation advocate Laiken Jordahl stated, “It's disheartening to see President Biden stoop to this level, casting aside our nation's bedrock environmental laws to build ineffective wildlife-killing borer walls.
She went on, “Starr County is home to some of the most spectacular and biologically important habitat left in Texas, and now bulldozers are preparing to rip right through it. This is a horrific step backwards for the borderlands,” and while federal officials have vowed to take care to safeguard the environment as the project progresses, it seems unlikely that AOC and others on the left will be convinced of the project's necessity.