Since 1999, Earthjustice lawsuits have kept Arizona's fragile San Pedro River from being sucked dry by overdevelopment. But nothing less than congressional action can save the river from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's war against illegal immigrants, Earthjustice Executive Director Buck Parker said today.
Using powers granted under the Homeland Security Act, Chertoff has waived all environmental regulations in order to build a 17-foot-high steel mesh fence along the border -- cutting in two the San Pedro River watershed. He thus sidesteps a court order and a lawsuit by conservation groups that sought to have Chertoff consider less destructive ways of protecting the border, Parker said.
"We are alarmed that Mr. Chertoff, acting out of political zeal, is willing to sacrifice the San Pedro River -- last wild desert river in the Southwest -- without even considering ways to protect both the river and our country," Parker said.
"It is clear that only an act of Congress can force Chertoff to consider alternatives. Therefore, Earthjustice strongly supports H.R. 2593, the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act of 2007. Sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), this bill will force Mr. Chertoff to create a border protection strategy that has dual goals of securing the border while best protecting public forest and park lands along the border.
"H.R. 2593 emphasizes the use of low-impact border enforcement techniques, and specifically provides for offsetting impacts on wildlife and their habitat. This legislation forces Mr. Chertoff to respect our country's natural heritage, which is a significant part of the homeland he is supposed to protect."
"The Chertoff wall is now closing in on the San Pedro River – home to more mammal species than any place on earth, except Costa Rica. His wall carves right through their homeland. Jaguar, mountain lion, coatimundi, javelina, beaver and hundreds of other land species will be victimized by this extreme action.
"Meanwhile, Mr. Chertoff has just released a report that shows arrests of illegal immigrants on the border have plunged 20 percent in the last year as a result of other enforcement methods. We call on Mr. Chertoff to consider these other methods -- along with the extraordinary technology available -- as alternatives to the wall."
Terry Winckler, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6716