In one of his last acts as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly approved the waiver of a number of federal policies to expedite the construction of “wall prototypes” on a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego.
By waiving the laws the government is no longer required to conduct costly reviews required by the Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Antiquities Act, and the Clean Water Act among others.
In a statement accompanying news of the waivers, the DHS assured the public that they would still work with other agencies to address concerns: “While the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects. DHS has been coordinating and consulting — and intends to continue doing so — with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.”
Brian Segee, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity argues that the waivers are unconstitutional and he vows to fight the waivers in court: “This isn’t just a wall they’re in a rush to build. It’s roads, lighting and all of the infrastructure that comes with it. All of this without any environmental review or public input. It’s a travesty and it has to be stopped. We believe the waiver is unconstitutional, and we’re confident the courts will agree.”
The future of Donald Trump’s wall remains in doubt however. Despite the fact that the House of Representatives has approved an initial $1.6 billion for the roughly $20 billion project, Senate Democrats vow to block a budget that contains any funding for the wall.