Washington, D.C. — Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva released the following statement regarding Secretary Chertoff’s decision to pursue a waiver of all laws, including environmental protections, in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and 5.4 miles of other borderlands:
“The Secretary’s decision to invoke a waiver for fence construction in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is short sighted and, combined with other wall construction along the border, will devastate the region and the river. It is an insult to those of us who live on the border.
“The Secretary’s responsibility is to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment for political gain.
“The REAL ID Act, which allows the Secretary of Homeland Security, a political appointee, to waive all laws for fence and road construction along the border, was never intended to be used along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the waiver was intended only for use on a small section of fencing in San Diego.
“This is the second time the Secretary has utilized the waiver in Arizona, clearly because he is aware that the environmental analysis created to justify the San Pedro wall project was weak and unsupportable under current law.
“The waiver is unnecessary; unfortunately the Secretary feels that he cannot work towards a measure that could include protecting the river as we secure the border. Nor does he believe in his fundamental responsibility to consult with local communities on the best approach to border protection for our specific region.
“Once again this Secretary and this Administration has given into fear-mongering and shown that they cannot be stewards of the land, let alone promoters of security. Just as in many other contexts, this Administration believes that it is above the laws that protect the environment, health and human safety of border communities. The unfortunate losers in this are the American people.
“Instead of issuing blanket waivers of all laws, the Secretary should begin a full scale, regional, environmental impact statement that analyzes in depth the impacts of fence and wall construction in Arizona, just as they are doing in Texas. The local community deserves the respect to have an open and transparent process with full environmental analysis where local voices who understand the implication of border polices are included in the dialogue. Our local communities are open to working on behalf of security – not a selective security, but rather one that includes habitat, national, border, and regional security.
“It is easy for political appointees in Washington, D.C. to implement a policy that affects communities and the environment several thousand miles away, ignoring the residents, culture, and landscape. But, this wall does not protect our communities; it separates our history, culture, wildlife and natural habitats.
“I have introduced legislation that among other things would repeal the REAL ID waiver, taking back the power from this administration to overturn established laws that protect the environment and the public’s right to know what federal officials are doing. I plan to continue to push for consideration of my legislation in order to rein in these continued abuses of power.