Speed Reads

Another Brick in his Wall

DHS is starting work on 33 miles of border 'wall' through a wildlife refuge, Texas state park, Catholic chapel

President Trump may or may not get his $5.7 billion to begin building his proposed border wall, but his administration is getting ready to use $600 million appropriated last March to build new border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The legislation referred to the 33 miles of new construction as fencing but U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls it a "border wall system," and current CBP maps show barrier construction cutting through the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, Texas' Bentsen State Park, and a century-old Catholic chapel next to the Rio Grande River, The Associated Press reports.

As seizing private land through eminent domain can be a lengthy process, CBP is starting with federal lands. And environmental groups expect the Trump administration to build its barrier through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a tract of dozens of parcels of land acquired over 40 years to create a corridor for endangered species and other wildlife, AP says. The new barrier will likely be detrimental to the birds, butterflies, insects, and other creatures that live in the refuge, but the Department of Homeland Security issued a waiver in October eliminating environmental restrictions on wall construction in Hidalgo County. Environmental group has sued DHS over its use of waivers, and that lawsuit is pending.

CBP said heavy construction equipment will start arriving this week, and the butterfly center posted a photo Monday of an excavator next to its property, explaining that local police have blocked center employees and the public from any of the butterfly refuge south of the levee. CBP plans released in September envision 25 miles of concrete walls as high as the Rio Grande flood-control levee in Hidalgo County, topped by 18-foot-high steel posts.