Big Balls, Bigger Wall, Chertoff Lies, Wildlife Die

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff "http://www.dhs.gov/journal/leadership/2007/10/securing-border-while-protect
ing.html#links">announced yesterday that he's going to just waive the
Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Waste Disposal Act, the National
Environmental Policy Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (among many
others) in order to plough ahead with building a wall along the
Arizona-Mexico border in the "http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/ncarea/sprnca.html">San
Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
He repeated his rationale that the wall could be good for the environment
because migrants leave behind trash:

But there are also environmental reasons to stop illegal
crossings in the SPRNCA. Illegal entrants leave trash and high
concentrations of human waste, which impact wildlife, vegetation and water
quality in the habitat. Wildfires caused by campfires have significantly
damaged the soil, vegetation, and cultural sites, not to mention threatened
human safety.

As anyone who's spent any time along the border (or really, anywhere on the
planet) can attest, this statement is a complete lie. A little pile of trash
in the wilderness might be unsightly, but it has nowhere near the effect a
giant, honking, double layered concrete wall has (um, which, is, I think, a
little more unsightly, if that's the standard we're going by). Since when is
a wall a solution to trash anyway? I think usually, Mr. Chertoff, the way
people clean up trash is by PICKING IT UP. What jaguars and bobcats and
Sonoran pronghorn anetelope and ocelots need is not a trash-free wilderness,
but a wilderness that doesn't cut them off from the breeding populations on
the other side of the border. Increased Bush administration border activity
and the climate crisis have already reduced
populations of the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope from 500 to below
25.

Oh, and by the way, no one actually thinks the wall will keep any illegal
immigrants out. The Border Patrol itself admits that it only slows people
down by 3 to 4 minutes. That's probably 60 seconds if the person has a
ladder. And they think there are 40 or more tunnels
under the wall. And more than 40 percent of illegal immigrants don't get
here by sneaking across the border: they just "http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/19.pdf">overstay their visas.

Here's a tiny, little, eensy-weensy silver lining to this announcement: the
Sierra Club responded aggressively to it with a national news release and
deserves a lot of credit for doing so. As I chronicled in my recent = "http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/hurowitz/">investigation in
Grist, the Sierra Club and many other environmental groups have been shy
about fighting the border wall for fear of getting tangled up in the
polarized immigration issue. They've apparently decided that the time for
shyness is gone and the time for fighting is here - and that this issue
could make the border region America's "http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/10/17/55719/633">new environmental
heartland. Also, NRDC has jumped in, albeit with a "http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rperks/border_puhlease.html">blog
post.

More than 150 miles of the wall have already been built; because Congress
gave Chertoff the authority to waive any environmental law that gets in the
way of building the wall, the only chance to stop all 700 miles of border
wall is through an act of Congress. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva has
introduced a bill that would give some moderately increased protections to
the border region. Unfortunately, because of the lack of work on the bill,
it has only 21 cosponsors and only 4 who don't live in the border region.
And it's unclear exactly how much Grijalva's bill would do even if passed -
Senate Democrats are using $3 billion in funding for border security
(including 700 miles of fencing) as bait for Republican votes on the
Homeland Security bill (the funding was approved 95-1, with even the
Senate's usual environmental champions lining up unanimously behind it,
showing that they weren't even considering the huge environmental
consequences). It will take House Speaker Nancy Pelosi standing up to defend
the wildlife and people to keep that funding out of the final House-Senate
conference.

During a recent trip to the Rio Grande Valley, Pelosi did "http://www.team4news.com/Global/story.asp?S=7140712&nav=0w0v">tell
Texans that the wall was "a terrible idea," but the Democratic leadership
has a terrible record of caving whenever the right wing gets riled up about
something as they are about immigration - even though many if not most
immigration opponents (including Minutemen) either don't care or "http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/la-na-fence17oct17,1,2320403.story?
ctrack=1&cset=true">oppose the wall.

We need Congress to act quickly so that more of the wall isn't built. You
can email your members of Congress "http://www.democracyinaction.com/dia/organizations/dcourage/campaign.jsp?ca
mpaign_KEY=2012">here and ask them to cut off funding for the wall.