Deer at border wall. Image credit:Anonymous
It's unfortunate that I don't have more to joke about in my post today of all days - April 1st. Rather, I've been thinking about an important anniversary: It was one year ago today that former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a particular waiver affecting the border area between Mexico and the U.S. In doing so, he perpetrated a terrible affront to environmental law. Don't remember this one? Believe me, it's been no April Fool's joke.Called the Real ID border waiver, last year Secretary Chertoff used this unprecedented authority to waive dozens of longstanding laws along 470 miles of the border. More than thirty-five federal protection laws have been violated in order to hastily construct an ecologically disastrous border wall, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act.
Mountain lion at border wall. Image credit:US Border Patrol
Thanks to the Chertoff waiver, in parts of Arizona, a steel wall fifteen feet high now cuts across the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Known for its unparalleled biodiversity and bird habitat, the San Pedro has been devastated by this controversial barrier. Photographs show mule deer, javelina and mountain lions stranded along this and other Arizona border walls. Wildlife biologists now cite drought and the border enforcement activities and infrastructure as the top two threats to Arizona's endangered Sonoran pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America.
In California, the double and triple layer border walls blind nocturnal animals with floodlighting, disrupting their ability to feed, migrate or mate. Bulldozers fill canyons east of San Diego, costing taxpayers millions of dollars per mile and filling the Tijuana Estuary with sediment and debris. Miles of crude, wide access road now plow haphazardly through the once roadless and rugged Otay Mountain Wilderness Area, causing massive erosion and altering the landscape.
Levee Wall, Conservation Area. Image credit:Scott Nicol
Now sprawling across wildlife refuges along the Rio Grande, concrete border walls topped with metal block animal access to water and threaten endangered species, including the first ocelot kitten seen in Texas in over a decade. Communities along the border are struggling financially since the wall separated them from the river and from their Mexican neighbors.
Just last week there was even controversy over plans to spray herbicide along the fence to keep vegetation under control.
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 wasteful project and to denounce the waiver provision of the Real ID Act.
On this anniversary of the April 2008 Real ID border waiver, you can take action to call for a comprehensive review of the border wall boondoggle and a suspension of border wall construction. The communities and wildlands of the U.S./Mexico border region deserve a less foolish April 1 this year.