April 1, 2009
Border Wall: One Year after Waivers Fast-Tracked Construction, Damage is Devastating
Washington, D.C. Wednesday, April Fool's Day, marks the one-year anniversary of the “mega-waiver” of dozens of federal laws by the Bush Administration in order to fast-track construction of the U.S./Mexico border wall.
“The harm that border walls have caused is devastating,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. “Walls have separated families, caused damaging floods and fractured habitat vital for wildlife on the brink of extinction, but there is still time for the Obama Administration to change course.”
Surveying the damage one year later, the border wall has destroyed precious areas and disrupted local communities across the borderlands region. In California, the double and triple layer border walls blind nocturnal animals with floodlighting, disrupting their ability to feed, migrate or mate. In Arizona, a steel wall fifteen feet high now cuts across the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, a critical bird habitat. In Texas, where the wall now cuts through wildlife refuges along the Rio Grande, concrete border walls topped with metal prevent animal access to water and threaten endangered species, including the first ocelot kitten seen in Texas in more than a decade.
“We encourage the Obama administration to halt all current and future border wall construction and to review the full impacts and effectiveness of the Bush administration’s program, including its broad and unprecedented waiver of laws,” said Michael Degnan, Sierra Club Lands Representative.
The REAL ID Act of 2005 gave the Secretary of Homeland Security - an unelected official - the authority to waive any law in order to expedite construction of infrastructure along our shared international border with Mexico. Last year Secretary Chertoff used this unprecedented authority to waive dozens of longstanding laws along 470 miles of the border.
New Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was critical of the border wall as Arizona governor, has the chance to freeze construction of this project and to denounce the waiver provision of the REAL ID Act.
“This year, the communities and wildlife along the border deserve better,” Mr. Pope added. “I look forward to open discussions about the border wall with Secretary Napolitano and the Obama Administration.”
For more information, visit http://arizona.sierraclub.org/border
For images of the border wall affecting wildlife and communities, please contact Oliver.Bernstein@sierraclub.org