Interior Department Transfers 560 Acres of Public Land for Border Wall Construction

Approximately 560 acres of federal land will be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Army to build roughly 70 miles of border barrier, the Interior Department announced on Sept. 18.

The transfer of administrative jurisdiction of the more than 500 acres of Federal lands comes as a response to a series of applications for Emergency Withdrawal that were submitted by the Army for construction or augmentation of barriers along the southern border. The land transfer does not include national parks or segments of Native American land.

“I’ve personally visited the sites that we are transferring to the Army, and there is no question that we have a crisis at our southern border,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement. “Absent this action, national security and natural resource values will be lost.”

Bernhardt said since the crisis is so vast, it must be addressed “aggressively” and with “extraordinary measures.” He added there were serious national security, drug enforcement, and other immigration challenges that staff face along the border.

After President Donald Trump issued Proclamation 9844, which declared the situation at the southern border a national emergency, the Army submitted its requests. Earlier on Sept. 4, the Defense Department announced that they would defer $3.6 billion to fund 11 barrier projects at the southern border.

“We made it a priority to work closely with the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, to protect the wildlife, natural, and cultural resources that occur on these federal lands along the border,” said Casey Hammond, Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management in a statement. “This work will provide the necessary tools to enhance the safety of those that live, work and recreate in this region.”

The lands that were requested for the projects include acres from 5 different areas, El Paso 2, El Paso 8, San Diego 4, Yuma 3, and Yuma 6.

The transfer of the jurisdiction of land to the army would be temporary, according to the interior department, and would last for a period of three years solely for border security purposes.

There have been a total of 811,016 apprehensions along the Southwest Border as of fiscal year 2019, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Last week Trump lamented the high costs illegal immigration has incurred on taxpayers.

“Illegal Immigration costs the USA over 300 Billion Dollars a year,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is no reason for this, and things are being set in motion to have this number come WAY DOWN. Democrats could end Loopholes and it would be a whole lot easier, and faster. But it will all happen anyway!”

Trump and a top immigration official said the administration is also working on ending so-called “catch and release” at the southern border, with the goal of shutting it down by early October.

Mark Morgan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters late on Sept. 18 that the administration is “confident that in a couple of weeks we’re going to be able to end catch and release at the southwest border.”

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Author: Bowen Xiao