Nature and Environment

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The Not-So-Great Divide

8/18/2008 8:48:26 AM

Tags: Department of Homeland Security, illegal immigrants, wall, US-Mexico border, wildlife

The Department of Homeland Security continues to build a 670-mile-long wall along the US-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants — even as environmentalists argue that the wall will endanger animals, divide Native American reservations and disturb wildlife refuges.

According to the New York Times, the number of known efforts made by illegal immigrants to cross the border have fallen 17 percent this year, after already declining 20 percent in 2007; but the government wants to keep that number dropping. The government argues that a wall is a vital part of the equation, though deterrents such as security cameras and an aggressive Border Patrol have been major contributors to this decline. While a wall can prevent many illegal immigrants from coming into the U.S., it can’t completely stop illegal immigration. But it will prevent wildlife from moving back and forth across certain habitats, reducing their chances of survival.

Three years ago the Supreme Court gave Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the ability to veto anything that could prevent the wall from being completed, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing. As of June 13, 2008, 331 miles of fencing had already been erected, with another 339 to go.

Those 339 miles, running from the Colorado River to the New Mexico border, are the most critical. They cross a number of national parks and isolated lands that are crucial to the survival of much wildlife, including species native to only those areas. As the Supreme Court refuses to revoke Chertoff’s power or to hear any petition by Defenders of Wildlife or the Sierra Club, the construction will continue unhindered. To date, the Bush administration has cast aside 30 laws and regulations in order to finish construction of the wall by the end of 2008.

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