Washington, D.C. October 6, 2023 – Today, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement that it will use the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority to waive all laws and legal requirements to build approximately 17 miles of new border wall. A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report shows that the existing border wall and use of this waiver authority has already caused irreparable damage to natural and cultural resources along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Walls don’t work. They are climbed over, cut through, and even blown over by the wind. They are a cheaply-conceived—yet exorbitantly expensive—political stunt that does nothing to address a deeply complex humanitarian issue. What walls do accomplish is drumming up anti-migrant hate, dividing border communities in half, and endangering the lives of people who are fleeing violence and oppression in search of a better life.
“But worse, under previous Republican administrations, border walls were recklessly constructed under the incomprehensible waiver authority, which allowed them to bypass any law—federal, state, or local—that protects human rights, health, safety, our environment, or Tribal and cultural resources. The damage has been incalculable and irreparable. The waiver authority never should have been passed into law, much less used by any administration.
“Whether their hands are tied or not, the Biden administration’s decision to build more wall is antithetical to the values they have promised to uphold for the American people. And their decision to be the first Democratic administration to use the waiver authority is deeply troubling. I urge them to reverse course and rescind the waiver. In the meantime, I will do everything in my capacity to ensure that this relic of the Trump administration does not perpetrate further harm to our environment, the communities of south Texas, and the people who are coming to this country seeking the safety and refuge we all deserve.
“We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. A crisis that the Biden administration must unfortunately manage alone since House Republicans only want to spread cruel anti-immigrant rhetoric, block comprehensive reform, and push enforcement-only policies that make the situation worse. The need for consistent, holistic policies rooted in human rights is more important than ever and I urge the administration to rethink their current approach.”
Per the Real ID Act of 2005, the Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to waive “all laws and legal requirements,” including state and local laws, to build barriers and roads along U.S. borders. This is the broadest, most sweeping authority of any cabinet official.
On Oct. 5, the Biden administration posted a Federal Register notice of its intent to use the Secretary’s waiver authority to build approximately 17 miles of noncontiguous border wall and roads in the Rio Grande Valley Sector (Starr County). The wall will consist of 18-foot steel bollards placed in “movable” concrete jersey barriers. The 26 federal laws and regulations that will be waived included the following:
National Environmental Policy
Endangered Species Act
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act)
National Historic Preservation Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Migratory Bird Conservation Act
Clean Air Act
Archeological Resources Protection Act
Paleontological Resources Preservation Act
Safe Drinking Water Act
Noise Control Act
Solid Waste Disposal Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
Farmland Protection Policy Act
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
National Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
National Trails System Act
Administrative Procedure Act
Eagle Protection Act
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
American Indian Religious Freedom Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act