The Biden administration has announced that it will build a new section of border wall in southern Texas to address the rising levels of immigration from Mexico. The decision marks a reversal of President Biden’s previous opposition to the border wall, which was a signature policy of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), around 20 miles (32km) of new barriers will be erected in Starr County, which is on the border with Mexico. The CBP said that the area has seen high numbers of illegal crossings this year, with more than 245,000 migrants apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.
The CBP also said that it will use funds that were already appropriated by Congress for border barrier construction in fiscal year 2019, and that the project does not violate Biden’s proclamation that halted the wall construction in January. The proclamation stated that building a wall across the southern border “is not a serious policy solution” and ordered a review of the legality and feasibility of the existing contracts.
However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that there is an “acute and immediate need” to build the new section of wall and prevent unlawful entries. The DHS also waived more than a dozen federal laws, including environmental and public health regulations, to expedite the construction.
The move has drawn criticism from environmentalists and immigration advocates, who say that the wall will harm wildlife habitats, violate human rights, and waste taxpayer money.
The new section of wall will consist of large bollards embedded in a concrete base, as well as gates, cameras and CCTV equipment, according to a proposal by the CBP. The DHS said that it will consult with local stakeholders and consider the impacts on the environment and communities before proceeding with the construction.
The announcement comes as Biden faces increasing pressure over his immigration policies, which have been blamed for encouraging a surge of migrants crossing into the US. In September, more than 200,000 migrants were encountered at the southern border, the highest monthly total in more than two decades.
Several US cities have also reported that they are struggling to accommodate the influx of new arrivals.
Biden has defended his approach as more humane and effective than Trump’s, and has pledged to address the root causes of migration in Central America. He has also called for a comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the US.
However, Trump has accused Biden of creating a “border crisis” by halting the wall construction and reversing his hardline policies. Speaking on Wednesday, Trump said: “He’s destroying our country. People are coming in by the millions. They’re destroying our country”.