MISSION, Texas (Border Report) — Over 100 organizations have sent a letter asking the Biden administration to stop its plans to waive environmental laws to quickly build a border wall through Starr County in South Texas
A total of 118 groups and nonprofits have signed onto the letter sent Monday to President Joe Biden. The letter was spearheaded by the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group that opposes border wall construction.
“We must make clear that there is no legal requirement to waive laws that protect vulnerable border communities and wildlife in the appropriations language or elsewhere. This waiver of law has been issued at the discretion of your administration and your administration has the power to reverse it,” the letter said.
On Oct. 5, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in the Federal Register that DHS would be building 20 miles of border wall in various sections of Starr County, on the Texas-Mexico border, “to deter illegal crossings in areas of ‘high illegal entry’ into the United States.”
In order to expedite the construction, the administration has waived 26 environmental regulations, including the Endangered Species Act; Migratory Bird Conservation Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; the National Environmental Policy Act; Clean Air Act; and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
This is the first time the Biden administration has waived environmental laws in order to put up a border barrier on the Southwest border with Mexico, and it has raised the ire of nonprofits and environmental groups nationwide.
The federal government plans to build about 20 more miles of border wall in Starr County. This section already was built in Fronton, Texas, in 2019. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)
“We must reiterate that there is no legal requirement to waive any laws for border barrier construction. This choice was entirely discretionary. Secretary Mayorkas’ decision to cast aside these critical protections to rush the construction of a wall that you admit ‘does not work,'” the letter said.
The groups that signed the letter include the ACLU; Sierra Club; Earthjustice; the Texas Civil Rights Project; Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas; Haitian Bridge Alliance; Endangered Species Coalition; National Immigration Law Center; National Education Association; the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies; Wildlands Network; Voces Unidas RGV; Vets United to Stop the Wall; the Border Network for Human Rights; and Save RGV.
“We hope President Biden heeds our call to restore legal protections for clean air, clean water, Indigenous graves and endangered species,” said Laiken Jordahl, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Border communities, wildlife and Indigenous nations deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else in America. It’s baffling and cruel that the administration plans to ignore these vital laws to build a destructive wall that the president admits is useless.”
Jordahl says an 18-foot-tall metal border wall with a concrete base would prevent wildlife from reaching the Rio Grande and necessary drinking water, as well as destroy native habitats.
The Zapata bladderpod perennial, and prostrate milkweed are endangered plants that only live in the Rio Grande Valley and would be threatened by wall construction, Jordahl says.
Monarch butterflies can only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.
Seven segments of black lines indicate proposed new federal border wall to be built in Starr County, Texas. (CBP Graphic)
“They can stop bulldozers from descending on Starr County and protect some of the best wildlife habitat left in south Texas,” Jordahl said.
Segments of border wall will be built in the western end of Starr County near Falcon Dam and through parts of Rio Grande City and the town of La Grulla, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.
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