DHS expedites part of Trump's border security order - including the wall

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is exempting itself from complying with environmental and other laws in constructing a wall along the Southern California border with Mexico, the agency said Tuesday. The stretch starts at the Pacific Ocean and extends eastward.

The agency has exercised the waiver authority on five previous occasions between 2005 and 2008 - during which most of the current border walls on the USA southern border were constructed.

DHS said the United States Border Patrol apprehended more than 31,000 illegal immigrants and seized 9,167 pounds of marijuana and 1,317 pounds of cocaine in the San Diego area during fiscal 2016.

The DHS said it has the authority to issue the waiver due to powers granted by Congress, which stipulate the agency can install physical barriers and roads to deter illegal entry into the United States.

Tuesday's announcement represents one border-barrier expansion project going forward, as the administration still seeks funding for the kind of full-fledged wall Trump promised during the campaign.

Lapan also says its not the first time the agency has used such a waiver, noting the Department of Homeland Security under former Secretary Michael Chertoff invoked it five times.

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The agency, however, said it was committed to its responsibilities in preserving the environment, the local culture and historic artifacts "to the extent possible".

Member station KPBS points out that the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity already sued the federal government last month for failing "to prepare and publish legally required environmental impact analyses for the border wall".

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has denied any recent phone communications with Donald Trump in praise of his United States counterpart's controversial border wall policy. "This isn't just a wall they're in a rush to build".

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $788 billion national security bill that includes $1.6 billion towards a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border. The measure is expected to meet resistance from Democrats in the Senate.

As the first step to deliver on one of his most divisive campaign pledges, the USA president signed a directive to begin the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico just less than a week after assuming office in Washington.

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