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DHS Announces San Diego Border Infrastructure System Cleared for Expedited Completion

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 05091562 (posted Sep. 15, 2005)"

Press Office

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Press Release

September 14, 2005

Contact DHS Public Liaison: 202-282-8797



WASHINGTON D.C. - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff today announced he will exercise his authority according to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and REAL ID Act of 2005, to waive certain legal requirements necessary to ensure expeditious completion of the 14-mile Border Infrastructure System ("BIS") near San Diego, California.

"Completing the Border Infrastructure System will strengthen our efforts to reduce illegal entry to the United States. Congress provided us the authority to ensure this project is completed and I intend to use it. Through this system with advanced technology and additional personnel we can make substantial progress in this section of our border," said Secretary Chertoff.

Once constructed, the 14-mile border barrier will strengthen Department efforts to further reduce illegal entry to the United States and improve border security by:

* Including multiple physical layers of security
* Building access roads to enable Border Patrol to speed response efforts
* Installing stadium style lighting to deter border crossers
* Installing surveillance cameras to monitor incursion

In 1996, Congress mandated the construction of the Border Infrastructure System. However, nearly nine years after the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act mandating the project, litigation and environmental permitting have caused the project to remain incomplete.

The construction of the BIS was planned for two phases. Phase I provides a continuous roadway system with security barriers and lighting within the middle 9 miles of the project area. Phase II extends the Phase I roadway system, barriers and lighting west through the Tijuana Valley Regional Park to the Pacific Ocean, and east to Otay Mountain.

The construction of Phase I resulted in reductions in illegal border crossing in the San Diego area. This first phase also reduced negative environmental impacts to the area caused by illegal migration, such as trails of garbage, destruction of vegetation, and trampling of sensitive lands. The remaining tasks of this phase were delayed by environmental permitting issues. Phase II has also been delayed due to series of environmental studies and discussions with interested parties and by litigation.

"It is not our policy to build physical barriers across the length of our borders. However projects like this make sense in certain settings like the urban environment around San Diego," said Chertoff. "We welcome legal immigration, but we need to ensure that we have effective deterrents to discourage illegal crossings."

Secretary Chertoff has instructed DHS to proceed in a manner that will limit the environmental impact and will significantly reduce longstanding environmental harm to the area caused by illegal migration. By completing the BIS, ongoing damage to the surrounding environment caused by illegal entrants trampling sensitive land, increasing erosion, cutting vegetation, setting wildfires, and discarding trash will be dramatically reduced.

"The Department of Homeland Security is not compromising its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship in the area," said Chertoff. "We will act in an environmentally responsible manner consistent with the security needs of the nation."

Throughout the duration of this project, DHS has taken significant steps to minimize potential impact to the environment, including:

· Conducting environmental impact studies;

· Soliciting and reviewing public comments;

· Conducting three public hearings on environmental issues;

· Receiving a Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife

Service with respect to endangered species;

· Excavating certain archeological sites potentially impacted by construction of the BIS;

· Undertaking efforts to protect certain indigenous species (including the Riverside fairy shrimp, San Diego fairy shrimp, and San Diego button celery); and

· Creating a restoration site for certain endangered species

DHS will continue to work in a consistent manner as it completes construction of the BIS with minimal impacts on the environment as possible and a renewed commitment to:

· Establish several erosion control measures for addressing sediment in the Tijuana River;

· Implement measures to slow and capture watershed sediment before it enters estuaries;

· Will reduce, if not eliminate, possibility of slides due to tiered, stair-stepped, construction to ensure stability of slopes; and

· Put forward designs to install an aesthetically pleasing infrastructure system around Border Field State Park to enhance visitors' experience at the park and not block ocean views.

For more detailed information about this announcement, click here .

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