US to ease environment laws for Mexico border near San Diego

WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday it would waive environmental and related laws in order to expedite building security-related barriers and roads along the nation's border with Mexico near San Diego.

The projects would focus on about 15 miles (24 km) of the frontier extending eastward from the Pacific Ocean as part of President Donald Trump's planned wall between the United States and Mexico, the DHS said in a statement. It said the area is one of the busiest U.S. border sections.

RELATED: The evolution of the US-Mexico border over 100 years

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The evolution of the US-Mexico border over 100 years
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The evolution of the US-Mexico border over 100 years

The US established an official border patrol in 1924 with the goal of securing the US-Mexico border. In the photo below, American guards are patting down Mexicans who wish to enter the US.

(Photo by Philipp Kester/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The Mexicali border station (pictured below in 1929) was surrounded by a tall fence. Cars lined up to cross into California.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Much like today, people coming from Mexico were required to open their bags and suitcases at the border. In this 1937 photo, an agent inspects the possessions of shoppers going from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas.

(Photo by Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress)

People able to enter the US legally passed via turnstiles, as seen in this 1937 photo. During the Great Depression, Mexican immigrants faced increased risk of deportation as American hostility toward immigrant workers grew.

In 1930, the US started a repatriation program, which offered Mexican immigrants free train rides back to Mexico in an effort to curb immigration. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants, especially farm workers, were deported during the 1930s.

(Photo by Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress)

In this 1948 photo, two armed American border guards deterred a group of undocumented immigrants from crossing a river into the US.

(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Traveling to Mexico from the US was not nearly as difficult. A Sigma Pi sorority chapter from Calexico, California cross into Tijuana in this 1950 photo.

Undocumented immigration into the US increased after WWII, so in 1954, the government launched Operation Wetback, a program that deported nearly 4 million Mexican immigrants.

(Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended caps on the number of immigrants allowed into the US from a given origin country. The act concentrated on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor to the US.

The 1965 act changed the ethnic makeup of the US and increased the number of immigrants to the country. Legal immigration grew 60% over the next two decades, with many people coming from Latin America.

(Photo by Warren K Leffler/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Friendship Park, dedicated in 1971 in San Diego-Tijuana, was intended to be a bi-national park with wire fencing at the border. In 2009, it closed for the construction of additional steel fencing, and re-opened in 2012.

Source: NBC

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In 1994, the first National Border Patrol Strategic Plan was developed in response to a perception among some Americans that undocumented immigrants and drug dealers were crossing the US-Mexico border. It included more aggressive prosecution of people trying to cross illegally.

(Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

In 1999, the US Border Patrol confiscated record numbers of drugs and money: 11,249 pounds of cocaine, 168,000 pounds of marijuana, and $13.2 million in currency.

(Photo By U.S. Customs/Getty Images)

The American government began building corrugated steel walls stretching eight to 10 feet tall in the early '90s.

Source: CityLab

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In the late '90s, inspection stations started using an automated program, called SENTRI, for pre-screened motorists to speed up the crossing process.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In July 2000, 64 special polling stations were set up in border crossing stations so that Mexican voters waiting to cross or living in the US could cast their ballots in the Mexican presidential election.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, security checks ramped up at the border.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Pedestrians and cars sometimes waited up to six hours to cross into the US.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Some who knew they couldn't pass legally tried to hide themselves. Agents discovered the sleeping boy pictured below inside the dashboard of a car coming from Mexico in 2003.

(Photo by INS/Getty Images)

Fears about undocumented immigration grew in the US during the early 2000s. In 2005, a group of civilian organizers launched the Minuteman Project, in which over 1,000 volunteers searched a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona desert for undocumented immigrants.

The group has largely splintered since then, but some still regularly patrol the border.

Source: The New York Times

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Border officials detained immigrants who were trying to cross in holding centers like the Arizona one pictured below in 2005.

(Photo by Jeff Topping/Getty Images)

Police discovered this elaborate tunnel, used to smuggle drugs and people into the US, in 2006. The 2,400-foot-long tunnel featured lighting, ventilation, and equipment to pump out ground water.

(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

With the 2006 Secure Fence Act, the US started construction on more steel fencing. The boundary now spans around 650 miles and cost approximately $6 billion.

Source: Vice

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

From 1998 to 2006, over 2,650 men, women, and children died attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. In the picture below, members of the humanitarian group No More Deaths search for migrants in distress in 2006.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Texas state government established Operation Lone Star in 2008, a project that sets up temporary, free healthcare clinics along the Texas border with Mexico. The first one lasted two weeks, and aimed to treat over 10,000 people, no matter their country of origin.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Some immigrants have attempted to cross the border into the US by riding atop freight trains, as seen in this 2013 photo. The journey is dangerous — immigrants risk robbery, assault, and injury from falling off the trains.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In 2014, Barack Obama announced an executive action on immigration reform, which granted temporary work permits and indefinite deportation exemptions to four million undocumented immigrants. Before the announcement, Catholic bishops led a mass near the border fence in Arizona to pray for comprehensive reform.

Source: The Washington Post

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Since taking office, the Trump administration has attempted to start cracking down on immigration. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants from January through mid-March, a 32% jump from the same period last year.

Source: Politico

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Though Trump says his administration will build a wall, the construction timeline and funding sources remain uncertain.

(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
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"The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads," the DHS said.

The department will oversee the installation of extra barriers, roads, lights, cameras and sensors on the border under the authority of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, the statement said.

The act grants the secretary of homeland security authority to waive requirements to comply with various laws to ensure the building of barriers and roads, while being mindful of cultural and environmental impacts, the statement said.

RELATED: Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border

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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
A gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence is seen outside Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Men talk on a street in the town of Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol officer stands at a border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Recent arrivals from Mexico wait to board a greyhound bus in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Highway 82 towards Douglas, Arizona is seen near Sonoita, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Clouds float above the border towns of Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A sign warning drivers that firearms and ammunition are prohibited in Mexico is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Buildings in Nogales, Mexico (R) are separated by a border fence from Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A worker makes his way through the water after setting up an irrigation system on an agricultural field, near Calexico, California, U.S. October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A church at the Museum of History in Granite is seen in Felicity, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man drives a tractor plowing a field at sunrise near Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Residential homes are seen next to the fence that borders Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians wait to cross the street in Calexico, California, Unites States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The town of Bisbee is seen in Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians make their way into the the United States from Mexico at the pedestrian border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A roadside collection of alien dolls and toy UFO saucers is seen next to a roadside residence neat Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A road abruptly ends next to a sign for a cattle ranch near Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A boy rides an all-terrain vehicle next Mexican border along the Buttercup San Dunes in California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An old refurbished gas station is seen in Lowell, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A man rides a tricycle past a grocery store in a town that borders Mexico, in San Luis Butter, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol truck drives past the fence that marks the border between U.S. and Mexico, in Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A truck drives west towards California along highway 8 near Gila Bend, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Electronic items are displayed in a shop window in Calexico, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A residential home is seen in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A fence separates the border towns of Nogales, Mexico (R) and Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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The DHS has broad authority to waive any law that could impede expeditious construction of barriers and roads under a 2005 amendment to IIRIRA, according to a memo published by the Congressional Research Service in January and seen by Reuters.

The memo was sent internally to members of Congress who questioned the feasibility of building a southern border wall.

The waiver is set to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days, the DHS said.

The DHS statement said U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested more than 31,000 "illegal aliens" and seized more than 9,000 pounds (4,082 kilos) of marijuana and 1,317 pounds (597 kilos) of cocaine in the San Diego area last year. (Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Writing by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Bill Trott)

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