Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chertoff declares himself god one more time

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2008
Contact: Scott Nicol, (956) 532-5983

No Border Wall Coalition: Chertoff’s Border Wall Waiver is an Assault on the Rule of Law

The No Border Wall Coalition is deeply disturbed by the announcement that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has decided to “waive in their entirety” 36 federal laws to build walls along the United States’ southern border. This represents an unprecedented abuse of authority on Secretary Chertoff’s part, and clearly demonstrates the need for an immediate repeal of section 102 of the Real ID Act. Obeying the law is not voluntary, it is mandatory, and Secretary Chertoff cannot claim that he is sweeping aside a host of laws on the border in defense of immigration laws. In a nation of laws all laws must be respected, not just those that are convenient. Equal protection under the law is meant to be a fundamental right shared by every American, but the Real ID Act makes the legal rights of citizens who live near the border conditional on Secretary Chertoff’s whims. Section 102 of the Real ID Act of 2005 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.” No one else is granted this extreme power under any circumstance. The president cannot waive our nation’s laws even in times of national crisis, and Secretary Chertoff cannot waive the laws that protect citizens who live away from the border. Only border residents may have their legal protections waived. The only reason for Secretary Chertoff to waive these laws is because he knows that the border wall will violate them. In setting these 36 federal laws aside Secretary Chertoff sets himself above the law. If congress allows unchecked power to remain in the hands of an unelected administration appointee they are complicit in fundamentally undermining the rule of law. Leaving the Real ID Act on the books and allowing Chertoff’s waivers to stand sets a precedent that should outrage the American people. If our nation’s laws can be set aside to build a border wall today, they may be similarly set aside for whatever crisis politicians discover in the next election cycle. The No Border Wall coalition calls on Congress to repeal section 102 of the Real ID Act and restore the rule of law. We also urge the Supreme Court to take up the constitutional challenge brought by the Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club to Secretary Chertoff’s earlier waiver of 19 federal laws to force the border wall through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona. Allowing one man to overrule laws passed by Congress and signed by the President for the express intent of circumventing judicial oversight is fundamentally un-American. # # # No Border Wall is a grassroots coalition of groups and individuals united in the belief that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will do irreparable harm to our borderlands and the nation as a whole. No Border Wall is opposed to the construction of a border wall because of the devastating consequences such a wall would have on border economies, on the environment, on human rights, and on the U.S. relationship with Mexico and the rest of the world. For more information or an interview, contact Scott Nicol at (956) 532-5983 or noborderwall@yahoo.com.


Homeland Security announces that it will waive regulations in order to complete the fence along the southern U.S. border by the end of this year

By Nicole Gaouette
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 10:34 AM PDT, April 1, 2008

WASHINGTON -- In an aggressive move to finish building 670 miles of border fence by the end of this year, the Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will waive federal environmental laws to meet that goal.The two waivers, which will allow the department to slash through a thicket of environmental and cultural laws, would be the most expansive to date, encompassing land in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas that stretches about 470 miles.The waivers are highly controversial with environmentalists and border communities, which see them as a federal imposition that could damage the land and disrupts wildlife.But they are praised by conservatives who championed the 2006 Secure Fence Act, despite the reluctance of President Bush, who has said a broader approach is needed to deal with illegal immigration.Republicans greeted the news with satisfaction."It's great. This is the priority area where most of the illegal activity is going on and where most of the deaths are occurring," said Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Solana Beach), chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus. "The quicker we can get the physical fence up, the sooner we'll avoid situations like the deaths of agents. And it's still a national security issue. You just have to stop this kind of open traffic along the border."Wildlife groups reacted with dismay.Brian Segee, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife, said, "It's dangerous, it's arrogant, it's going to have pronounced environmental impacts and it won't do a thing to address the problems of undocumented immigrants or address border security problems. It's an incredibly simplistic and ineffective approach to complex problems."The waivers are intended to clear the way for fencing to block pedestrians and cars, as well as extra camera, towers and roads near the border. A special waiver was issued for a project in Hidalgo County, Texas, that would combine levees and a barrier.Congress gave Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the power to waive federal law in order to build the fence quickly. Since construction began, the department has faced fierce opposition from local communities and has had to go to court against more than 50 property owners simply to survey land to determine whether it is suitable for a fence.The department has so far built 309 miles of fence.Some of the resistance comes from landowners who protest that the path of the fence might block their access to the Rio Grande; other opponents are concerned that it could increase the danger of extinction for endangered animals, such as the ocelot, a wild cat whose mating habits may be affected.Chertoff has called the waivers a last resort, and department officials say the agency is committed to minimizing the impacts to the environment and wildlife.Homeland Security officials said many of the 470 miles have already undergone environmental review and that the agency is committed to environmental responsibility."If that was true, the waivers wouldn't be necessary," Segee countered.Homeland Security has previously issued three waivers.One, on September 2005, was to complete roughly 14 miles near San Diego; another in January 2007 was used to build infrastructure near the Barry M. Goldwater military range in southern Arizona. A third waiver was issued in October 2007 near the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area, also in southern Arizona.nicole.gaouette@latimes.com

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