If you live near the Rio Grande and the Border Patrol knocks on your door you might want to have a lawyer present when you answer.
That is because Customs and Border Protection is gearing up for a fresh round of land condemnations to build border walls in Roma, Rio Grande City, and Los Ebanos, Texas.
According to documents obtained by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act request the new walls won’t just slice through farmland and wildlife refuges. In Roma “up to 25 residences could be impacted.” In Rio Grande City the wall’s route will take it through a nursing home, and “If the decision is made to buy the tract out in its entirety, the business will need to be relocated along with 64 residents, potentially up to 90 residents if at 100% capacity.” In Los Ebanos landowners who went through condemnation three years ago will be hauled into court again to have more of their property snatched away.
The “gang of eight” U.S. Senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, have released a set of principles that they see as the basis for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The fact that they are trying to resolve this issue is a positive step, and has the potential to allow millions of people to finally live normal lives, free of fear and exploitation. But a key component of their plan calls into question whether that promise will ever be realized.
Immigrants’ advocates have long held that a “pathway to citizenship” must be part of any immigration reform plan, allowing those currently in the United States without papers to earn U.S. citizenship.
Conservative icon Ronald Reagan agreed with this, saying, "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally." Today anti-immigrant groups spit out the term “amnesty” as a curse, and many in the current crop of Republican politicians use it to slander the very idea of allowing the undocumented to become citizens.
The long, low body moves in a permanent crouch as the lithe cat glides through the shaded underbrush. Not much larger than a house cat, but with a lean, dark body more closely resembling a weasel’s than a tabby’s, the jaguarundi stalks small prey, birds and rodents mostly, in the thornscrub where the Gulf Coast meets the Rio Grande.
Last month the Pew Hispanic Center reported that net migration from Mexico into the United States has dropped to zero, with roughly the same number of Mexican citizens heading south across the border as north.
Just a few days earlier the misnamed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (HR 1505) was introduced onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It has since been stuffed into the Conservation and Economic Growth Act, and will probably be voted on today. Aimed at stopping the nonexistent flood of immigrants, this bill waives 36 laws on all federal lands within 100 miles of both the northern and southern U.S. borders for all Border Patrol activities.
If it is signed into law bases could be built, roads could be cut, and new border walls could tear through national parks from Glacier to Olympic on the northern border to Big Bend in Texas, as well as national forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, with no concern for the environment.
Newt Gingrich surged ahead of the pack in the South Carolina Republican primary, and looks set to come in second in Florida, as the “anybody-but-Romney” contingent of the party appeared, for the moment, to have settled on him. Hoping to show that he is serious about border enforcement last fall Newt signed a pledgeto line the southern border with double-layered border walls by 2013.
The pledge was written by Americans for Securing the Border, whose national chairman is the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, Van D. Hipp Jr. Mr. Hipp’s push for enforcement of immigration laws is ironic, considering his own legal status. He is a convicted felon, who in 1997 pled guilty to accepting illegal campaign contributions. The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg, South Carolina, reported that, “In return for the guilty plea, the government dismissed a 14-count fraud and money laundering indictment stemming from operation of a phone sex business.”
The lunacy of the Mad Hatter, pouring tea and posing riddles about ravens and writing desks, has entertained Americans since Disney (and later Johnny Depp) brought him to the silver screen. Lewis Carroll’s character arose from the phrase “mad as a hatter,” which was commonly heard in 1865, when Alice in Wonderland was first published. At that time mercury was used to cure felt for hats, and mercury exposure caused hatmakers to exhibit confused speech, distorted vision, twitching limbs, muscle tremors, extreme excitability, and hallucinations.
Despite this obvious impact on human health, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that the United States and other countries enacted regulations to limit mercury exposure, both in workplaces like the hatters’ and the population at large.
In his recent speech in El Paso President Obama pointed to the buildup of border security personnel and infrastructure, and declining crime rates in border communities, to justify a renewed effort to enact immigration reform. This will be a tough sell in the current Congress.
Just three weeks earlier the difficulty of his task was on display in Washington DC when Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) displayed photos of headless corpseswhile shouting at Ron Vitiello, Deputy Chief of the US Border Patrol, during a committee hearing. Vitiello had enraged Representative Chaffetz by calmly asserting that,“While there is still work to be done, every key measure shows we are making significant progress along the Southwest border.”
On March 12 thousands of parents, students, and teachers will gather in front of the State Capitol in Austin to demand that the Governor and state legislature abandon HB1, the proposed bill that guts funding for education and other critical state programs. They will demand that a quality education for every student in Texas be the legislature’s top budget priority, and not be sacrificed to cover up the legislature’s past mistakes.
Governor Perry and state legislators did not run for election on a platform of gutting education. Instead, they claimed that Texas has been so well governed that it was the sole bright light in a dark national economy. They failed to mention that the state is facing a $27 billion dollar budget shortfall.
In 1994 President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 to address the issue of Environmental Justice. It instructs federal agencies to identify and address actions that might have "disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects... on minority populations and low-income populations." EO 12898 remains in effect today, but in building border walls the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has chosen to ignore it.
Since the passage of the Secure Fence Act around 650 miles of border wall have been built, slicing though towns, farms, and natural areas. Southern border states have rates of poverty that are significantly higher than the national average. In 2009 Arizona had the second highest poverty rate in the nation, New Mexico had the third highest, and Texas came in seventh. Within these states communities along the border tend to be the poorest. The 2007 list of 10 counties with the lowest median incomes in the nation included the Texas border counties of El Paso, Hidalgo, and Cameron, all three of which now have border walls.
Following the mid-term elections one thing is crystal clear: barring divine intervention or a grass-roots outcry loud enough to drown out the Tea Party, the new Congress will pass legislation requiring hundreds of miles of new border walls.
The border walls that today divide border communities and wildlife refuges have little impact national security, immigration policy, or drug control. Instead they are causing tremendous environmental damage by fragmenting habitat, disrupting watersheds, and pushing endangered species to the brink; more than 400 landowners have had their property condemned; and migrants are "funneled" deep into the desert, where hundreds die each year. But with a new Congress anxious to burnish its national security credentials, new walls will almost certainly tear through the border.
Over 660 miles of border wall have been built along the U.S.-Mexico border, slicing through the deserts of California and Arizona on its route from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The wall’s path takes it through some of our nation’s most fragile and biologically diverse protected lands. Border wall construction has involved dynamiting mountains and damming rivers, the disruption of migration corridors and the destruction of endangered species habitat.
In the 1990’s politicians trying to explain away all of America’s ills, without blaming American voters or accepting their own fair share of blame, turned their attention towards the southern border. The ebb and flow of migrants across the border, which had been occurring since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established it at its present location, was recast as an invasion. The invaders (who were, conveniently, ineligible to vote) were blamed for rising crime and failing schools, unemployment and overstretched social services. Clearly, the invasion must be stopped before the nation was overwhelmed.
Time to call in the troops and wall off the border.