By Catherine Yang
Former President Donald Trump had made building a wall at the southern border a hallmark of his first campaign and presidency, and in his 2024 campaign he has frequently lambasted the Biden administration for lax border security.
Upon the announcement that the Biden administration has waived 26 federal laws to resume border construction, President Trump demanded an “apology.”
“Will Joe Biden apologize to me and America for taking so long to get moving, and allowing our country to be flooded with 15 million illegals immigrants, from places unknown. I will await his apology!” he wrote on Truth Social.
On Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the announcement, citing 245,000 illegal immigrant crossings between ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley, as of early August. The rules waived include several environmental and conservation laws, like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Farmland Protection Policy Act.
“So interesting to watch Crooked Joe Biden break every environmental law in the book to prove that I was right when I built 560 miles … of brand new, beautiful border wall. As I have stated often, over thousands of years, there are only two things that have consistently worked, wheels, and walls!” President Trump wrote on social media.
Mr. Mayorkas stated that there was an “acute and immediate need” to build walls and the necessary roads for construction at the southern border, fast-tracking the construction.
“DHS will take immediate action to construct barriers and roads,” he stated in the issued waiver (pdf).
The waiver only announced immediate construction in the Rio Grande Valley area, which Mr. Mayorkas cited as a “high illegal entry” zone.
It will include covering areas along Falcon Dam, the Arroyo Morteros Tract, the Las Ruinas Tract, Leos Road, North Redwoods Street, Los Velas Tract, Los Olmitos Road, Market Road, La Casita East Tract, Villareales Banco Tract, and the Cuevitas Tract in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The waiver was needed in order to access project areas, excavate, fill, and install physical barriers and supporting elements like drainage, lighting, and erosion controls.
The construction will be funded by an appropriation Congress approved in 2019 for the border wall.
The 240,000 figure as of early August cited in the waiver does not make note that in September alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection found a record high of 260,000 illegal immigrant crossings in a single month.
The second highest was 252,320 crossings last December, with a total of 2.3 million last year. Total fiscal year 2023 numbers are expected to surpass 2.4 million.
The Biden administration has thus far promoted “enforcement,” “deterrence,” and “diplomacy” in its handling of the border crisis, according to White House comments. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed the strategy has been successful, returning more than 250,000 illegal immigrants since May.
Since the Biden administration took office in 2021, illegal crossings at the border have risen significantly.
On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador warned that the United States will soon see 10,000 illegal immigrants arrive every day at the border.
Mr. Obrador made the remarks ahead of a planned visit from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Mexico had been seeing some 6,000 illegal crossings from Guatemala into its own borders every day in the past week, and the Mexican president blamed the United States for fueling the migration.
Mr. Obrador criticized U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela as “blockades” and “harassing independent and free countries.” Many illegal immigrants coming from these places are doing so to escape the economic collapse of their home countries.
The United States placed an embargo on communist Cuban trade in 1962 during the Kennedy administration. During the Trump and Biden administrations, further sanctions were added.
In 2006, the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela for refusing to cooperate with anti-drug and counterterrorism efforts, specifically targeting groups that violated human rights and later the authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro.
Mexico has seen an increase in illegal immigration recently, with aliens seeking to ultimately reach the United States, and the country has done little to prevent them.
Mr. Blinken said ahead of his trip that the illegal immigration crisis and fentanyl will be the biggest issues to discuss with Mexican officials.
On Oct. 3, he said that the relationship between the United States and Mexico is “arguably the most important we have in terms of the practical impact,” because the country is our largest trading partner, and the aforementioned two issues.
He shared that Mexican officials will seek U.S. cooperation on stemming the flow of illegal weapons into their country, which arms the drug cartels.
“We have a mutual responsibility to work together to deal with these challenges. It can’t—it’s not a one-way street; it’s a two-way street,” Mr. Blinken said.