Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday backtracked from Biden administration statements made this week that cited the need to waive dozens of federal laws to build a border wall in South Texas.
“I want to address today’s reporting relating to a border wall and be absolutely clear,” he said in a statement. “There is no new Administration policy with respect to border walls. From day one, this Administration has made clear that a border wall is not the answer.”
“That remains our position and our position has never wavered,” he added. “The language in the Federal Register notice is being taken out of context and it does not signify any change in policy whatsoever.”
The remarks by Mayorkas came a day after DHS posted an announcement in the U.S. Federal Register that outlines construction in Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, where the administration says there is “high illegal entry.”
The agency says there have been more than 245,000 migrant encounters in the sector this fiscal year.
In the Federal Register announcement, Mayorkas said he is using his authority provided by Congress to waive 26 federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
“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 in the project areas pursuant to sections 102(a) and 102(b) of [the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996],” Mayorkas said.
Upon taking office, President Biden halted new border wall construction as part of a promise he made on the presidential campaign trail. The administration said wall construction under the Trump administration was “just one example of the prior administration’s misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way.”
The Federal Register announcement comes as the Biden administration faces a fresh surge of illegal migration, resulting in record-high numbers of migrant encounters at the southern border. The influx has caused an intense political divide amid criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
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