Archive for the ‘Texas Border Wall Fence’ Category

c/o North Carolina Observer

WASHINGTON The Obama administration is preparing to scrap Bush-era plans to gradually extend a high-tech “virtual” border fence along vast stretches of the 1,969-mile U.S.-Mexico border, ending a troubled security measure inaugurated in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush, the Houston Chronicle learned Friday.

The decision, expected to be announced shortly by the Department of Homeland Security, comes after federal authorities poured nearly $1 billion into a post-9/11, 53-mile demonstration project to evaluate whether a network of state-of-the-art remote cameras and ground sensors could help U.S. Border Patrol agents intercept undocumented immigrants, drug smugglers or potential terrorists surreptitiously crossing the border into the United States.

The Obama administration decision would end the original Bush administration plan to extend the virtual fence along most of the U.S.-Mexico border by 2017 at an estimated cost of $8 billion.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona familiar with the problems afflicting the project, signaled plans to kill any extension of the “invisible fence” with a series of internal decisions in recent weeks that shifted the year-to-year contract with the prime contractor to a month-to-month contract that is due to expire on Nov. 21. HOUSTON CHRONICLE

c/o Center for Investigative Reporting 

More than two-dozen cities and counties in southern Texas joined by environmentalists and immigrant-rights organizations are calling on two lawmakers to end their push for additional fencing along the nation’s boundary with Mexico.

In a letter to Senate leaders May 6, the Texas Border Coalition and others argued that the approximately 650 miles of fencing already constructed in recent years has divided communities, negatively impacted the environment and cost taxpayers a fortune. They say that despite investing $2.6 billion so far, the barrier’s value in stopping the flow of illegal immigration and drug traffickers from Mexico hasn’t been studied.

The lack of such an analysis was confirmed this week by the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog arm of Congress, which concluded in a report that Customs and Border Protection “cannot account separately for the impact of tactical infrastructure,” i.e. border fencing.  :::MORE HERE:::

c/o Sierra Club’s Borderlands Team

MORE REAL ID WAIVERS
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona was the next to feel the brunt of the Real ID Act’s destructive power. When the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife challenged the construction of the border wall across this World Heritage site and home of Arizona’s last free-flowing river, a federal court agreed that the Department of Homeland Security had ignored the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and handed down an injunction temporarily halting construction. Rather than comply with the law, DHS Secretary Chertoff waived it, once again suspending the laws that were the basis of a successful suit, along with 18 others. Within days of the waiver, DHS restarted construction.

Apparently hoping to head off further court challenges to the border wall, in April 2008 DHS Secretary Chertoff issued two waivers. One waived 27 federal laws to allow for the insertion of border walls into the existing flood control levees in Hidalgo County, Texas. The second waiver covered every other section of border wall scheduled for construction from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. This border-wide mega-waiver suspended 36 federal laws. Along with the environmental laws set aside in earlier waivers, Chertoff waived the Farmland Protection Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and a host of others, along with all state and local laws related to the subjects of the waived federal laws.

Eloisa Tamez brought a class-action lawsuit against Homeland Security through which she hopes to force the government to pay a fair price for her property. But if she harbored any illusions that a change of administration in Washington would help resolve the issue, nearly a year of non-action on immigration and border justice by Obama has disabused her for such notions.

“Obama and [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano have done nothing but take the place of the previous administration. It’s just a new name with the same policies. We have been totally abandoned,” she said.

Now the Good Neighbor Environmental Board has come up with some ideas for Obama.

In a December 2 letter, the advisory board dedicated to matters pertaining to U.S.-Mexico borderlands environmental justice wrote that while the wall was “mandated” by Congress and had “some positive outcomes” that “the construction has caused negative impacts on natural and cultural resources. For instance, the wall has been blamed for flooding on the Mexican side of the river in cities such as Nogales, Sonoyta, and Palomas. Construction also unearthed Native American burial sites of both the Tohono O’odham and the Kymeyaay, and failed to allow room for migration wildlife.

In a series of recommendations to the President, the group urged that those elements of the REAL ID Act that had allowed former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff to waive dozens of other federal laws to build the wall be repealed and that future “border security infrastructure” conform to federal environmental laws under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Border Wall activist Scott Nicol of the No Border Wall Coalition said repealing the REAL ID Act section is critical.

“Much of the environmental damage that the Environmental Board wants to address would never have occurred if DHS was required to obey all of nation’s laws. It is because DHS failed to act responsibly from the beginning that there is now a need for monitoring and mitigation of the severe damage that they have inflicted upon border communities and refuges,” Nichol wrote in an email to the Current. “Border walls in Texas are in clear violation of the endangered species act, and DHS never released any studies proving that the walls stuffed into the Rio Grande’s flood control levees do not put communities at risk. Hopefully President Obama will reverse the Bush-era policies, and implement the Board’s recommendations.”

Will actually grasping the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday convert Obama into a border-loving justice hound? We can only hope.


By A. PATRICK BEHRER
for
The Harvard Crimson

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As we recognize the historic occasion of East Germany’s opening, America quietly completes construction of its own wall. The southern border barrier between the United States and Mexico covers 670 miles of southwestern desert between Mexico and the four states it borders. Like the Berlin Wall, the border wall is emblematic of much more than just a boundary between countries. Cutting indiscriminately across ecologically-priceless land, it has become a symbol of governmental disregard for environmental protection.

The Bush Administration began the project in 2006 as the most recent attempt to stem the tide of illegal immigration, and it now nears completion; at 630 of 670 miles completed, Obama shows no signs that he intends to halt construction of the final portions. Humanitarians and budget hawks have blasted the wall as ineffective and enormously costly. With a final price tag of more than $4 billion and $6.5 billion in estimated maintenance expenses over the next 20 years, the direct, measured costs alone are immense. However, to discuss the project’s environmental impact, one must recognize the systematic neglect of environmental laws that occurred during its construction.

The Real ID Act of 2005 allowed the Department of Homeland Security to construct infrastructure along our nation’s borders with immunity from all government laws and regulations. Using the power granted under this act, the Secretary waived the impact assessment requirements of both the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Protection Act. Thus, the border wall’s construction—which took place on some of the most ecologically valuable land in the country—went ahead without any consideration of its impact on the native species that call this area home.

Not surprisingly, this wall has wreaked havoc on the ecosystems of the area. It cuts off migration routes for species such as the Sonoma Pronghorn, already endangered, whose population has crashed to as few as 31 individuals. If congress had not exempted the border patrol from the ESA, this damage would have been sufficient to stop or dramatically alter the construction plans. Instead, building the wall has categorically ignored environmental damage and, as a result, threatened the survival of the only known pair of breeding jaguars in the United States.

Are environmental concerns sufficient reasons to stop this construction? Perhaps not. There are severe economic and social costs to unchecked illegal immigration. However, the wall should not have received blanket exemption from environmental regulation. The Obama administration claims it will step up to the plate to combat global climate change, yet their silent acquiescence to the destruction of the southwestern desert throws this commitment into question.

These may seem unrelated and, thus, some might understand how the Administration can separate climate change policy from broader environmental concerns. Their logic: Climate change is a global threat while the wall only damages a small section of desert. However, this view ignores the reality that the southwestern desert is a globally unique and important biosphere recognized by both The Nature Conservancy and the United Nations. Indeed, the wall threatens the San Pedro River, one of TNC’s eight “Last Great Places” in the world. Climate change is an issue so large that addressing it will entail broad behavioral changes—this, in turn, requires a new environmental consciousness. We cannot flip a switch and fix climate change, as it remains too pervasive for easy solutions. Only by considering the environmental impacts associated with all of our actions can we to truly address this global crisis.

Endeavors like the border wall demonstrate very clearly that this new consciousness does not yet exist. Unfortunately, this project has not occurred in isolation. The U.S. Navy conducts sonar testing that has little practical benefit but inflicts proven, lethal affects on marine mammals. Until the government shows a willingness to seriously consider environmental costs in all its decisions, the commitment to fight climate change is little more than empty words.

The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago signaled a sea change in international policy and kick started a period of unprecedented global openness. While the border wall does not have this same public resonance, stopping its construction would be a first step toward creating a new environmental consciousness within the U.S. government. This sea change would prove no less significant than that which occurred after the fall in Germany. The last 20 years have seen international barriers shrink on an unprecedented scale; the next 20 must see environmental consciousness of the same scale.

BTC – Here’s a bit of gossip on the Border Governor’s Conference, a conference of state governors on the U.S. Mexican border consisting of Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas. Corresponding Mexican states are Chihuahua, Baja, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas. What could they POSSIBLY want to discuss? [Border cards & EDLs, the fence, Mexico’s new identity mandate etc. etc.]

Texas Governor Rick Perry wasn’t there.
So what does that mean? State residents who are mindful of Perry’s foul ups and misplaced loyaties to extranational interests (SPAIN) are hawkish among conservative voters and might want to push him in a corner about … immigration issues… during an election year.


Notes from Scott Nicol of
No Border Wall



The biggest news is that Congress is on the verge of approving more [appropriations for the Border Wall Fence]. The Senate version of the DHS appropriations bill has more (lots more!) border walls, while the House version does not. If it is not stripped in conference Boeing and Kiewit will be set to make billions of $ more. Ciro Rodriguez is on the conference committee, but it is hard to tell if he has the strength to stand up and demand that the Senate’s wall-building amendment be stripped.

Also, thousands of pages of FOIA requested documents on the wall were released (heavily redacted) online. Check out governmentdocs.org.


From Scott Henson’s


$33 million for TDEX

Steve McCraw [BTC- McCraw is Texas Governor Perry’s appointed DPS agency head; who is also Texas State head of DHS. No insider trading there, right?] also used the commission meeting to promote spending $4.1 million in asset forfeiture funds on the TDEX database – Texas’ version of a Total Information Awareness intelligence system that’s been one of the Governor’s principle homeland security hobby horses. The $4.1 million makes up for a program shortfall experienced in the last biennium, said McCraw, who added that the Lege put up $12 million for the next biennium and the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division would spend another $17 million in grants on the project for a total of $33 million over the next two years.

McCraw called TDEX a “great investment for our department,” but Commissioner Carin Barth pointed out that spending money on TDEX meant the asset forfeiture money couldn’t go for other priorities like Tasers and body armor. To this writer, $33 million seems like a lot of scratch for a database that’s been highly controversial but which, to my knowledge, has never actually contributed to solving a criminal case.


By contrast, I’ll bet $33 million would go a long way toward reducing delays at DPS’ drivers license offices.[Or delays at the U.S. Mexican border – let’s not beat around the Bush here.]


Written by Steve Taylor and Joey Gomez , Rio Grande Guardian

McALLEN, July 24 – Forty three members of Congress have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voicing concern over the “mounting” environmental and societal impact of the border wall and other security barriers.

The lawmakers have asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate with other applicable agencies to create and fund a “robust border-wide environmental monitoring program” and to provide “sufficient mitigation funding” for damage caused by border security infrastructure and enforcement activities along the Southwest border region.

“It is the Secretary’s responsibility to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., one of the 43 members of Congress to sign the letter.

Grijalva, who convened a congressional hearing about the border wall at the University of Texas at Brownsville last year, said a review is necessary to “quantify, compensate for and avoid the negative consequences of border security infrastructure and operations.” He said border communities are “open to working on behalf of security – not a selective security, but rather one that includes habitat, national, border, and regional security.”

Grijalva described the hundreds of miles of border fencing constructed by DHS as a “massive federal project.” He said the project has had “serious consequences upon natural and cultural public resources, and has caused hardship for private land owners, whose lands have been condemned and livelihoods have been disrupted.”

Scott Nicol, a co-founder of the No Border Wall group, pointed out that U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates that 60 percent of their National Wildlife Refuge tracts in south Texas will be impacted by the border wall. The South Texas tracts were established, in part, for the protection of endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarondi.

“We are pleased to hear that 43 members of Congress are stepping up to the plate and attempting to correct some of the environmental damage that the border wall has done. If former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff had not been given the power to waive all laws, this would have been addressed before wall construction began. Chertoff used the Real ID Act to waive the National Environmental Policy Act, along with 35 other federal laws, stopping the usual Environmental Impact Statement process in its tracks,” Nicol told the Guardian.

“Before the first bulldozer dug into the earth to clear a path for the wall, many of its impacts had been predicted. The Environmental Protection Agency warned that blasting in California’s Otay Mountain Wilderness Area would dump thousands of tons of rock and sediment into the Tijuana River. Defenders of Wildlife issued a report on the Arizona wall’s impacts on the ability of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to migrate. U.S. Fish and Wildlife told DHS that Hidalgo County’s levee-border wall would be incompatible with the mission of the wildlife refuges that it would slice through.”

The letter from the members of Congress has this to say about the environmental impact of the border wall in south Texas:

“In south Texas, private land owners and agricultural interests have significant tracts of land that have been or will be isolated to the south of border fencing. Yet, DHS has only offered compensation for the exact footprint of the infrastructure – failure to recognize or compensate for fiscal losses of property value and accessibility caused by the construction of border fencing.”

Nicol said the monitoring and mitigation program that the members of Congress are calling for would be a “good first step towards bringing scientific rigor to an understanding of the wall’s impacts.” However, he said the No Border Wall group is concerned that DHS will ignore its findings, “just as they ignored the Environmental Protection Agency, Defenders of Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.” :::MORE HERE:::


Taragana.com/WASHINGTON – Biologists have determined that a 700-mile security wall under construction along the United States’ border with Mexico could significantly alter the movement and “connectivity” of wildlife, with the animals’ potential isolation a threat to populations of some species.

However, technology and alterations to the design could dramatically improve the potential for animals to move more freely between the two countries, the scientists added.

“The biggest concern is that this barrier will break small populations of animals into even smaller pieces that will result in fewer animals interacting,” said Clinton Epps, a wildlife biologist at Oregon State University and co-author on the study.

“A major barrier such as this could lead to significant degradation of connectivity for many different species, ultimately threatening their populations,” he added.

In their study, the authors looked at the potential effects of the security wall on two species – the pygmy owl and bighorn sheep.

They found that the low-flying pygmy owl made three-fourths of its flights below the height of the security wall, which is approximately four meters high, and that juvenile owls had lower colonization in areas of disturbance or areas with less vegetation. ::MORE HERE::