As of March 17, there were 309 miles of fencing in place, leaving 361 to be completed by the end of the year. Of those, 267 miles are being held up by federal, state and local laws and regulations.
The waivers would address the construction of a 22-mile levee barrier in Hidalgo County, Texas; 30 miles of fencing and technology deployment on environmentally sensitive ground in San Diego, Tucson and the Rio Grande; and 215 miles in California, Arizona and Texas that face other legal impediments due to administrative processes. For instance, building in some areas requires assessments and studies that -- if conducted -- could not be completed in time to finish the fence by the end of the year.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had said using the waivers would be a last resort. The department has held more than 100 meetings with lawmakers, environmental groups and residents in an effort to work out obstacles and objections to fence construction. The department will conduct environmental assessments when necessary, one of the officials said. But the waivers allow the department to start building before completing the assessments.
The department was expected to announce the plans later Tuesday.
Residents and property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border have complained about the construction of fencing. In South Texas, where opposition has been widespread, land owners refused to give the government access to property along the fence route.
The government has since sued more than 50 property owners to gain access to the land.
Environmentalists have also complained about the fence because they say it puts already endangered species such as two types of wild cats -- the ocelot and the jaguarundi -- in even more danger of extinction. They say the fence would prevent them from swimming across the water to mate.
Chertoff has said the fence is good for the environment because immigrants degrade the land with trash and human waste when they sneak illegally into the country.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.