In a move to speed up the construction of 177 miles of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration is waiving a set of laws that applies to how the Department of Homeland Security can work with federal contractors.
The 10 laws the waiver applies to stipulate that the department allow open competition for contracts, justify its contractor selections and secure bonds that protect the government from financial loss should the project not be completed correctly, among other things.
“Under the president’s leadership, we are building more wall, faster than ever before,” the department said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
FILE – This March 2, 2019 photo shows a Customs and Border Control agent patrols on the US side of a razor-wire-covered border wall along the Mexico east of Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has the authority to waive these contracting laws under a 2005 provision that gives him sweeping authority to do so when building border barriers. The option has previously been used to waive environmental impact reviews for sections of the border wall.
Trump’s administration has invoked the waiver law 16 times, compared with five times under former President George W. Bush.
The wall sections to which Wolf’s waiver applies will be built in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
This is just the latest step the Trump administration has taken to advance its immigration agenda. Last week, DHS deployed 100 Customs and Border Protection agents to work with Immigrations Customs and Enforcement in a handful of U.S. cities that have not cooperated with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws.
That move drew criticism from Democrats, including Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, who sent the department a letter over the weekend demanding that it “reverse course” on the decision. Among the 100 agents deployed were members of an elite unit known as BORTAC, essentially the SWAT team of CBP.
“Because this initiative is unnecessary, unwelcome, dangerous, menacing, retaliatory and unlikely to achieve its stated goal,” Warren and Markey said, “we write to demand that you reverse course and to pose questions to better understand your rationale for employing paramilitary-style immigration personnel equipped with ‘stun grenades and enhanced Special Forces-type training, including sniper certification’ in Boston and elsewhere in the United States.”
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced its intent to redirect $7.2 billion in funds appropriated for the Pentagon to build the border wall, an action Democrats called a “slap in the face to the members of the Armed Fores and their families.”
The Trump administration announced where the funding for $3.8 billion of that $7.2 billion would come from last week. In details first reported by the Washington Post, the Department of Defense plans to divert funding from the construction of 17 aircraft, among other previously planned expenditures.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.