Faith, Human Rights, Environmental Leaders Applaud Congressional Efforts to Restore Rule of Law in Borderlands

For Immediate Release

Environmental and Religious Groups
Contact: 

Jay Johnson-Castro, Border Ambassadors, 830-734-8636 Matt Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, 520-623-9653, Ext. 2 Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512-477-2152 John Fanestil, United Methodist Church, 619-823-6223

Faith, Human Rights, Environmental Leaders Applaud Congressional Efforts to Restore Rule of Law in Borderlands

WASHINGTON - Today, 27 members of Congress urged Secretary of
Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to instruct U.S. Customs and Border
Protection to comply with all laws if she proceeds with the final approximately
40 miles of border wall construction still slated for environmentally sensitive
areas in California and Texas.

The
REAL ID Act of 2005 gave the Secretary of Homeland Security
-- an unelected official - the authority to waive any law in order to fast-track
construction of infrastructure along our shared international border with
Mexico. Bush administration Secretary of Homeland Security
Michael Chertoff used this unprecedented authority five times, waiving more than
three dozen cultural protection, religious freedom, public safety, and
environmental laws.

"Ignoring laws to build walls
has caused needless harm to families, communities, and wildlife," said Michael
Degnan, Sierra Club's public lands representative. "We are heartened to hear
members of Congress call on the administration to reinstate the rule of law to
the borderlands, a simple act that would go a long way toward restoring
responsibility to our border policy."

In today's letter, the 27
Representatives recognized the impacts of waiving laws at the federal, state and
local levels, writing: "We believe damage that has occurred to community
relationships and public lands is attributable, at least in part, to the haste
with which construction has proceeded, the lack of compliance with laws and
regulations, and the lack of consultation with property owners and land
managers."
In asking that the Secretary
comply with all laws if additional border wall construction takes place, the
members of Congress note that more "careful consideration now could save
mitigation dollars later, as well as avoiding the type of impacts that will be
difficult to mitigate at any cost."

A diverse group of organizations have
applauded Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and his colleagues for taking a stand and
urging action on this critical issue.

"I've seen nothing that
even comes close to justify waiving laws in order to fast track border wall
construction," said Congressman Bob Filner. "It concerns me that this has taken
place in the past and I urge Secretary Napolitano to prevent further damage to
our border communities, natural resources, and fragile wildlife
habitat."

"We should not sacrifice
bedrock democratic principles like ‘consent of the governed' and ‘representative
democracy' at the altar of the border wall," said Reverend John Fanestil of the
United Methodist Church. "Kudos to legislators working to restore due process
and the rule of law on the U.S.-Mexico border."

Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr.,
founder and president of Border Ambassadors and executive director of the
Rio
Grande
International Study Center, Laredo Community
College, said:
"For those of us who live here on the border, we feel like our part of the
United
States is
not recognized as equal to the rest of the country. When over three dozen
Congressional acts were waived, we lost the legal protections that the rest of
the United
States
enjoys. Some call our borderlands the ‘deconstitutionalized
zone.'"

"The controversy over walls and waivers is far from
over, despite hundreds of damaging miles of walls already built in disregard of
laws meant to safeguard our lands and resources," said Matt Clark, southwest
representative for Defenders of Wildlife. "This is the time for President Obama
and Secretary Napolitano to make a clear departure from the mistakes of the last
administration and comply with the important laws enacted to prevent or minimize
negative impacts to our wildlife and environment."

Learn more about Defenders' work on the border.

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