August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

'No Border Wall' condemns violation of 20 federal laws


The No Border Wall coalition is deeply disturbed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s decision to waive 20 federal laws and overturn a judge’s order to resume construction of the border wall through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. We believe that his action is highly irresponsible and will result in permanent damage to the San Pedro River and increased deaths in the desert, while the number of people who enter the U.S. illegally will be unaffected. Secretary Chertoff’s actions, and the ill-conceived Real ID Act that permits him to unilaterally waive our nation’s laws, undermine the notion that the United States is based on the rule of law. He cannot suspend the law while claiming to defend the law.

When the Border Patrol and Army Corps. of Engineers began building the border wall through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, disregarding important federal statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club petitioned the court for a temporary halt to construction. On October 10th U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle found that DHS had largely ignored the relevant laws, and that the hasty Environmental Assessment that had been produced without public comment was “inadequate.”

Rather than attempt to comply with our nation’s laws, Chertoff chose to “waive in their entirety… all federal, state, or other laws, regulations and legal requirements” related to the following 20 federal statutes:
National Environmental Policy Act
Endangered Species Act
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (aka Clean Water Act)
National Historic Preservation Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Clean Air Act
Archaeological Resources Protection Act
Safe Drinking Water Act
Noise Control Act
Solid Waste Disposal Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
Antiquities Act
Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Farmland Protection Policy Act
Administrative Procedures Act
This is a clear admission that the walls being built through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and other refuges along the border will run counter to these laws. There is no reason for Chertoff to waive laws that the wall will not violate.

In response to the court order, Secretary Chertoff said, "I have to say to myself, 'Yes, I don't want to disturb the habitat of a lizard, but am I prepared to pay human lives to do that?'” This dilemma is completely false. More than just the habitat of a lizard, federally endangered species such as the jaguar have been recorded in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in recent years. And as for human lives, the border walls built to date have not saved lives; instead, they have cost lives. No terrorist has been apprehended attempting to cross our southern border, and a wall would not stop them if they tried. The Border Patrol has repeatedly stated that border walls only slow crossers down by a few minutes. In its June 5, 2007 report Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border the Congressional Research Service stated, “The primary fence, by itself, did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border in San Diego.” The only measurable impact that the border walls have had is in the number of people who have died in the desert. In August of 2005 the General Accounting Office issued a report titled Illegal Immigration: Border Crossing Deaths have Doubled Since 1995. Walls do not stop crossers, they redirect them into ever more remote parts of the desert where hundreds die of exposure and dehydration every year. When Chertoff asks himself whether he is “prepared to pay human lives,” he has his answer in the GAO report.

No Border Wall calls on Congress to restore the rule of law by repealing section 102 of the Real ID Act. Secretary Chertoff has provided a glaring example of the danger inherent in giving an Administration appointee the power to overrule all of the laws that Congress has enacted. If this precedent is allowed to stand the rule of law may be suspended for any future “crisis” that catches the attention of politicians during an election cycle. Our nation needs to find real solutions to our immigration issues, instead of a wall that destroys vital ecosystems and costs billions of dollars and hundreds of lives, but will only provide a false sense of security.

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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

Photo: Jaguar; map of jaguar territory/Arizona Game and Fish

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