DHS gives go-ahead to Calexico border wall stretch: Contract award expected in November

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Calexico border
The Calexico, CA, border post

The Trump administration has waived environmental laws and other reviews to replace a small stretch of border wall in Calexico, the second time it has exercised that authority in less than two months, The Associated Press reports.

Acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke said replacing fence in the area is one of the highest priorities for border security. The government plans to award a contract in November and begin construction in February.

A Federal Register notice says the waiver extends three miles west from the downtown border crossing in the city of 40,000 people.

The current barrier is 14 ft. high, made with corrugated steel panels. DHS plans to replace it with 25-ft.-tall bollards, separate posts with space between them.

The bollard style was the topic of a testy exchange at a White House press conference in May, when a reporter asked Sean Spicer if it wasn’t more of a fence than a wall.

It marks the seventh time the government has waived environmental reviews under a 2005 law, which exempts the government from the National Environmental Protection Act. That law requires extensive reviews of environmental impacts, and a host of other laws.

In August, DHS waived reviews for a 15-mile stretch in San Diego.

Environmentalists represented by the Center for Biological Diversity have challenged the San Diego waiver in federal court, arguing that the law doesn’t apply to replacing barriers. The lawsuit also seeks to block plans to build prototypes in San Diego for what President Donald Trump has called “a big, beautiful wall” with Mexico.

DHS said it has made significant gains in the Border Patrol’s El Centro, California, sector, which includes Calexico, but more needs to be done. The Border Patrol made 19,448 arrests during the last fiscal year — less than five percent of the total on the border with Mexico.

Downtown Calexico, which is about 120 miles east of San Diego, has been one of the more challenging areas for Border Patrol agents in the area. People who enter the country illegally often try through the highly polluted New River.

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