UPDATE, March 2, 2018 — The federal government as awarded Montana-based construction company Barnard Construction Co. a $73 million contract to design and build a 20-mile segment to replace fencing along New Mexico's US–Mexico border wall, according to Spectrum News Austin. The work, which is being financed through the Army Corps of Engineers, does not yet have a publicly available timeline.
UPDATE, Feb. 27, 2018 — U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled Tuesday to uphold the Trump administration's legal power to construct a U.S.–Mexico border wall, Politico reported. Curiel's ruling dismisses legal challenges from environmentalists and California, both which argued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had broken the law in waiving environmental regulations related to the construction of border wall prototypes and existing wall replacement work.
In his opinion, Curiel concluded that Congress' actions were intended to speed up the border wall construction, but wrote that DHS' waiver provisions were constitutional as part of the department secretary's legal authority.
- The Federal Register has published a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Notice of Determination that waives several environmental and historic preservation laws for construction crews to be able to fast-track a portion of the U.S.–Mexico border wall.
- The 20-mile portion of the wall being examined extends west from the Santa Teresa border crossing in New Mexico, an entry point that is within the U.S. Border Patrol's (USBP) El Paso Sector. That sector, according to Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, is "an area of high illegal entry." DHS claims there is an immediate need for a planned vehicle barrier replacement and bollard wall.
- Rules under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, among others, will not be enforced in order to expedite construction. At least one environmental group, the Center for Biological Diversity, is considering filing another lawsuit against the Trump administration over this latest action, according to The Hill.
This isn't the first time the president has run up against advocacy groups opposing his intentions to build a U.S.–Mexico border wall. And it's not the first time the administration has said it is exempt from the environmental regulations others have to follow.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's and the California Coastal Commission filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in September in an effort to stop border wall construction in California. The plaintiffs allege that the DHS did not submit the required environmental reviews before beginning wall prototype construction and waived its obligations based on an expired immigration law.
Since the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump has been vocal about his intention to do away with as much red tape and bureaucracy as possible, particularly when it comes to the construction of infrastructure-related projects. Upon entering office, the president initiated a federal hiring freeze as part of his efforts to curb certain agencies' operations. But the freeze was lifted less than three months later amid concerns that the DOL would not be able to maintain investigations of wage and other violations.
Around the same time Trump ordered federal agencies to stop hiring, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum directing federal agency heads to stop sending new regulations to be published with the Office of the Federal Register, to withdraw those that had been recently submitted, and to delay the implementation of those rules already published.