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 waiver would apply to a number of wall prototypes the agency intends to build in the area in carrying out an executive order signed by President Trump in January.
In its statement announcing the decision, DHS cited the San Diego sector in particular as "an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads."
Congress gave the authority to DHS to waive certain laws in the interest of securing borders in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).
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 U.S. southern border were constructed.
But months before DHS's statement Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity along with U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva filed a suit against John Kelly and the DHS, saying that the proposed plans for the wall would endanger "dozens" of endangered and threatened species in the San Diego sector alone and environmental requirements should be observed.
Last week, Customs and Border Patrol announced that the naming of companies to build the prototype walls will be delayed until at least November.
Two companies which bid on mock-ups of the proposed wall appealed to the Government Accountability office after failing to make it to the second round, delaying the process. Eight to 10 companies were supposed to be chosen and announced in June to build prototypes.
A day later, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a spending bill which included $1.6 billion for Trump's border wall - a sum of money which may face challenges in the Senate.