With a stroke of his pen last month the Homeland Security chief suspended nineteen laws in Arizona that stood in the way of a two-mile section of border fence slated for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.What an outrageous abuse! Here's a situation that, to me, cries out for strident claims of state sovereignty. I've said before a wall on the Texas-Mexico border amounts to the most imbecilic public policy I've ever heard seriously proposed. If it happens, we will be the first nation state in history of the planet to build a wall along a major river, and leave the river on the other side!
He’s threatening to do South Texas the same way, unless environmentalists win a recently filed lawsuit.
[Michael] Chertoff is using a tool granted to him by Congress in 2005 as part of the Real ID Act. In Section 102 of that act, Congress offered Homeland Security the power to waive laws conflicting with border
militarizationsecurity. Congress also stripped the courts of judicial review except for Constitutional claims.
Overturning state and local laws with a stroke of a pen in Washington is an affront to federalism and the concept of local control, snubbing people on the front lines who have firsthand stakes in the border and border security. By all rights, opponents of a border wall should be waving banners with the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution stenciled on them. But since those arguments have been all but banished from polite society - after all, Bob Herbert might call you a racist - opponents find themselves falling back on weaker arguments. E.g., the Observer reports that:
residents on both sides of the border as well as environmentalists and birders are enraged over the fence.Chertoff's response is as clever as it is disingenuous (arguably building a wall will cost more lives by pushing migrants further out into the boondocks): If the debate is defense against Al Qaeda against bird habitat, I think the wall builders probably win. But if the debate is about federalist ideals laid out in nation's founding document, I think arguments against the wall gain more traction.
The latest map released by the government shows segments of the wall slicing through critical habitat in Texas. The Sabal Palm Audubon Center in Brownsville will be completely walled off, leaving this rare, species-rich palm grove in a sort-of no-man’s-land. Many Texans probably do not know that the Lower Valley is the most biologically diverse region in the nation. Yet it has a global reputation. I’ve met people from as far away as South Africa who have never set foot in Texas but know about the Valley because of its fame as a birding and wildlife paradise.
Chertoff’s response to all this? “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?’,” he told the AP.
It's not that birds and lizards don't matter, it's that the environmental issues appeal to a fairly narrow and more liberal segment of the public, while even those without a personal or ideological stake in environmentalism can find reasons to dislike a fence that restricts Texans' access to a major river and was imposed by Washington against the wishes of the locals.
There are many good arguments for opposing a border wall, there's really no reason to limit yourself.