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Lawmakers, activists react to Biden administration plans to build new border wall in Texas

The Biden administration is waiving more than two dozen environmental protection laws to build a steel bollard wall and roads along almost 20 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Arizona lawmakers and advocates are calling on him to reverse course. 

President Joe Biden argues his hands are tied because Congress has already set aside the money and won’t agree to direct it elsewhere. 

Still, it’s a significant policy shift — Biden ran on a campaign promise not to build more wall and issued a mandate halting construction days into office.

A law enacted in 2005 gives the Department of Homeland Security the authority to waive local, state and federal laws to build border barriers. The Trump administration used the law to build a 30-foot steel bollard wall along some 450 miles of borderland. 

Southern Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva said that wall has already caused significant damage to water, land and animals, citing a  government watchdog report about border wall impact released earlier this year. 

In a statement issued after the announcement, Laiken Jordahl, Southwest conservation advocate Center for Biodiversity, said the Biden administration should halt plans for more construction.

"The administration has falsely claimed it had no choice but to waive protections for border communities and wildlife, but this terrible decision was theirs alone and they can undo it. Secretary Mayorkas needs to rescind these waivers and restore legal protections to the borderlands immediately," he said.

The Show spoke with Texas Public Radio’s Gaige Davila, who covers border and immigration there, about this. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.