1 of 2 | President Joe Biden meets with members of U.S Customs and Border Protection in El Paso, Texas, on January 8, his first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office. File Photo courtesy of the White House | License Photo
Oct. 5 (UPI) -- In a sharp deviation from earlier statements, the Biden administration said Wednesday it will waive 26 federal laws in a rush to build more border wall in South Texas, where migrant crossings from Mexico have surged over the past year.
"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," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a document published Wednesday on the Federal Register.
The document waives dozens of environmental, public health and cultural preservation laws to allow construction on the wall to resume. Among the laws affected are the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Mayorkas cited 10 areas of "high illegal entry" in the "vicinity of the international land border in Starr County, Texas." He said there have been 245,000 migrant crossings this fiscal year between ports of entry in the U.S. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector.
Mayorkas called for "immediate action to construct barriers and roads," with construction to be "funded by a fiscal year 2019 appropriation through which Congress appropriated funds for the construction of border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley."
In 2021, new border wall construction stopped after President Joe Biden promised there would "not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration." Biden accused the Trump administration of "misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way."
Biden has faced bipartisan backlash with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday becoming the latest influential Democrat to criticize the administration's response to the border crisis.
In a letter, Pritzker urged Biden to coordinate a federal response to the "untenable" migrant crisis after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, transported more than 15,000 migrants to Chicago.
"Unfortunately, the welcome aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government," Pritzker wrote. "Most critically, the federal government's lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois."
Last month, dozens of House Democrats called on the Biden administration to speed the process of granting work permits to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York and 102 other Democrats urged the president and Mayorkas to "use all the tools available" to assist migrants who are "stuck in limbo" as they wait to obtain work permits.
"As a result, asylum seekers are forced to rely on underfunded community groups to provide them with everything from housing to food to health services," they wrote.
Abbott has continued to transport thousands of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Texas to Democrat-led cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
"Texas' small border towns remain overwhelmed and overrun by the thousands of people illegally crossing into Texas from Mexico because of President Biden's refusal to secure the border," Abbott said in June.
Abbott has also vowed to "fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court" over a floating barrier deployed to stop illegal crossings in the Rio Grande, after a federal judge ordered him to remove it.