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Department of Homeland Security will Waive Laws to Build Border Fence

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Aired 4/19/09

Laws will not stand in the way of completing 670 miles of fencing along the U.S. Mexico Border, including here in California. The Department of Homeland Security announced it will bypass all laws that would block construction. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is under pressure to build 370 more miles of fencing along the border by the end of 2008.

In an aggressive move to meet that goal, Chertoff has announced he'll set aside all local, state and federal laws that could stand in the fence's way along 470 miles of the border. They include the Endangered Species, Historic Preservation and Clean Water Acts and a list of 30 others.

Congress gave Chertoff the authority to waive laws along the border in 2005.

Homeland Security Spokesman Russ Knocke says the fence should not be delayed by debate.

Knocke: Or while there's protracted litigation in an effort to preserve a small lizard that may be germane to one area of the border.

However, a host of groups say the damage the fence will do is much broader than that.

They say it'll hurt border communities and could wipe out dozens of endangered plant and animal species.

Attorney Brian Segee of the group Defenders of Wildlife adds the waivers set a dangerous precedent that erodes the separation of powers guaranteed by the Constitution.

Segee: This is allowing Secretary Chertoff to decide what laws do and don't apply and that's dangerous. And really, at its core, it is un-American. If you look at the problems the wall is intended to address, this is basically a band aid. It’s going to stop everything but people.

Historically, the border fence has not stopped people from crossing the border illegally.

It has simply funneled traffic to other areas of the border.

 

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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