California’s border with Mexico will likely see four more construction projects in the near future.
The Department of Homeland Security this week issued environmental waivers permitting expedited construction in four sections of the state’s border. It also issued waivers for projects in Arizona.
The projects total about 93 miles of construction, according to DHS, and will replace “dilapidated and outdated designs.” About 30 miles of that are in California, and 63 miles are along the Arizona border.
A four-mile project is slated for the San Diego Sector of Border Patrol on both sides of the Tecate Port of Entry. The other 26 miles are in several parts of the El Centro Sector.
“The San Diego and El Centro Sectors are areas of high illegal entry and are experiencing large numbers of individuals and narcotics being smuggled into the country illegally,” the department said in a statement. “The construction of border infrastructure within these project areas will support DHS’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations.”
The number of people caught crossing the border in both sectors, which make up the entire southern border of California, peaked in March before dropping slightly in April.
Border Patrol agents apprehended 6,191 people crossing into the San Diego Sector and 3,391 in the El Centro Sector in April, according to Customs and Border Protection data. That’s a total of 9,582, down 8% from the 10,442 caught along the California border in March. The last time California border crossings were that high was in April of 2010, when agents caught 10,534.
The department clarified that the projects covered by the waiver were funded by Congress in fiscal 2018 and are not related to President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration meant to secure funding for his full border wall.
DHS has issued similar environmental waivers for other recent border construction projects under the Trump administration, including a stretch of replacement barrier just over two miles long in Calexico, and about 14 miles of double-layer replacement barrier in the San Diego area.
Environmental groups have pushed back on the government’s use of such waivers, and lost, in federal court.
It was not immediately clear what designs for the new projects would look like. At least one section of El Centro Sector replacement barrier will be bollard-style fencing — posts set close together so that no one can pass through — similar to the project completed in Calexico in October 2018 and the projects wrapping up in San Diego.
As part of San Diego’s construction project, crews tore down the border wall prototypes put in place early in the Trump administration to test different designs. So far, Congress has not allowed border construction funding to implement those wall designs.
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