The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a plea by environmental groups to curb the Bush administration’s power to waive laws and regulations to speed construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has used his Congress-given authority to ignore environmental and other laws and regulations to move forward with hundreds of miles of fencing in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Earlier this year, Chertoff waived more than 30 laws and regulations in an effort to finish building 670 miles of fence along the southwest border. Administration officials have said that invoking the legal waivers, made possible when Congress authorized it in 1996 and 2005 laws, will cut through bureaucratic red tape and sidestep environmental laws that stand in the way of fence construction.
As of June, 13th, 2008, 331 miles of fencing have been constructed in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, but this specific case involved a two-mile section of fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Naco, Arizona, which has since been built.
Congressman Thompson who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee 13 other House democrats (including six other committee chairs) filed a brief in support of the environmentalists’ appeal.
Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform when it had the chance in 2007.
Thompson said, “Without a comprehensive plan, this fence is just another quick fix.”
Environmentalists have said the fence puts already endangered species such as two types of wild cats – the ocelot and the jaguarundi – in even more danger. The fence would prevent them from swimming across the Rio Grande to mate.