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Border Militarization by Congress Threatens to Derail Immigration Reform Bill

TUCSON, Ariz. - Under the umbrella of comprehensive immigration reform, border security hawks in Congress are trying to ramp up even further the elimination of environmental protections along the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding extremely expensive, largely useless security strategies that have already caused substantial damage to the border region. Security contractors have lobbied Congress to include expensive and unnecessary border infrastructure in the immigration reform bill now moving through Congress; hanging in the balance are billions of taxpayer dollars that would be funneled to the lucrative border-militarization industry.

“Waiving environmental laws and building more walls on the border won’t solve the immigration problem,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Congress has it exactly backwards — border security conflicts are just a symptom of failed immigration policy. Our elected leaders need to focus on crafting a more efficient, humane immigration system that reduces the pressure for destructive enforcement activities in our fragile borderlands.”

Senate Bill 744 contains provisions laden with favors to special interests that would expand the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to waive all laws with regard to border security activities and mandate that the Department elevate further wall construction above other strategies — despite the fact that neither of these provisions has been shown to have made a significant contribution to border security. According to some reports, construction of the wall has done little to stop cross-border smuggling, while vehicle traffic by border patrol agents in remote areas has increased.

“Unfortunately, the only thing the wall stops is wildlife,” said Serraglio.

Constructed without significant public input or environmental review, the border wall has caused severe flooding, erosion, and millions of dollars of damage to both public lands and private property. With an average price tag of $6.5 million per mile, the border wall was found by the U.S. General Accountability Office to have had no discernible effect on the flow of illegal immigration.

“When the government rushes through a boondoggle like the border wall with little or no accountability, the people and wildlife of the border region pay the price,” said Serraglio. “The wall has created hundreds of miles of impenetrable boundaries for endangered jaguar, ocelot, and many other animals, while utterly failing to solve the problem it was built to address.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced amendment 1318 to the immigration reform bill, which would strip provisions that mandate further wall construction and expand waivers of law.

“It makes no sense to turn the border into a lawless war zone on the pretense of protecting the people who live there,” said Serraglio. “The Wyden amendment is a breath of fresh air that would keep the focus where it belongs — on fixing a broken immigration system.”


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