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July 3rd, 2019
In Newly Submitted Comments, Chair Grijalva Raises Serious Environmental and Social Concerns With Proposed Construction of U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Tucson, Ariz. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent formal comments opposing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposal to build 63 miles of new border wall in Pima and Cochise counties in Arizona along the U.S-Mexico border, approximately 300 miles of which is in Grijalva’s district. The proposed wall would damage communities throughout the region and cut through federally protected public lands, including Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument, San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge and Coronado National Memorial.

Grijalva’s full comments are available at The proposed border wall, Grijalva points out, would disrupt an International Biosphere Reserve at Organ Pipe, threaten to damage habitat for the 275 native species living in Cabeza Prieta, and impact the rare wetlands protected by San Bernardino.

The legality of funding the wall remains in dispute. The U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California ruled on June 28 that Trump illegally transferred Department of Defense money to fund the wall and issued a preliminary injunction.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) argued yesterday to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that administration officials should ignore the District Court ruling and continue wall construction in New Mexico, Arizona and California. DOJ argued that the appropriations in question will no longer be available for border wall construction unless directed toward specific contracts by Sept. 30.

Under the REAL ID Act of 2005, the Secretary of Homeland Security has authority to waive “all legal requirements” when constructing barriers and roads along the U.S.-Mexico border, including environmental, public health, and safety laws. While a 2011 analysis deemed the waiver unconstitutional, the Trump administration has aggressively pursued its REAL ID authority and is responsible for 13 of the 18 waiver uses since the law went into effect.

Trump officials have waived 52 different laws and legal requirements, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, among others.

As Grijalva writes:

The border wall bisects the natural range of a variety of animal species, interrupting migration patterns and restricting animals’ access to water sources. It is estimated that over 1,500 species of animals and plants have ranges that overlap the US-Mexico border,[1] including a number of species that are considered endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act and other entities. [. . .]

The border wall also makes animals vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires, if they cannot retreat to safer territory when needed.

Such harm to the environment comes on top of the atrocious human rights abuses perpetrated by the Trump administration’s border enforcement program, Grijalva writes: “It is clear that President Trump’s continued obsession with building that wall—even without Mexico paying for it—is not motivated by facts or sound policy. It is fueled by fear mongering and hate-filled, racist stereotypes that he has used to militarize border communities and strip residents of their most basic environmental, public health, and public safety rights.”

Grijalva notes that communities along the U.S.-Mexico border are not neatly divided between the two countries, with an average of 400 people crossing the border between Nogales, Arizona and its larger sister city, Nogales, Sonora every hour. Considering the social, economic and environmental disruption inherent in further border wall construction, Grijalva writes, “Continuing to spend taxpayer dollars on the President’s ludicrous campaign promise is not only a waste of money, it is a proven danger to our wildlife, our public lands, and our border communities.”

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[1]Robert Peters, William J. Ripple, and Christopher Wolf, et al., Nature Divided, Scientists United: US–Mexico Border Wall Threatens Biodiversity and Binational Conservation,BioScience, vol. 68, no. 10 (October 2018).

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