On the first page of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the 70 miles of border wall that are scheduled to be built in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in the spring, it states, “The mission of CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while also facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel.” (ES-1) Building the wall will allegedly aid them in this narrow goal by, “preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States.” (ES-2) The phrase “terrorists and terrorist weapons” is used over and over, showing up more frequently than references to drug-smuggling or undocumented immigrants. The pre-9/11 functions of the Border Patrol seem to have faded into the background, despite the fact that no terrorists or terrorist weapons have ever come across our southern border.
The assertion that the border wall will make our nation safer is absurd. While the Draft EIS makes grand claims for the efficacy of the border wall, spokespersons for DHS and the Border Patrol describe it much more modestly. Del Rio, Texas, Border Patrol Chief Randy Hill said, “We're going to see steel barriers erected on the borders where U.S. and Mexican cities adjoin. These will slow down illegal crossers by minutes.” Not “prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States,” or prevent anyone or anything else from entering the United States, but “slow down illegal crossers by minutes.” Rather than preventing the next 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security is building a $46 billion dollar speed bump.
If a border wall had stretched from sea to shining sea before September 11, 2001, it would have made no difference to the terrorists. None of the hijackers came into the United States across a land border. Instead, according to the 9/11 Commission, the 19 hijackers applied for and received visas which allowed them to enter and reenter the U.S. 33 times. Each time they came in through an airport, not by land. Only one terrorist is known to have tried to come into our nation by crossing a land border. He was the Millenium Bomber, caught trying to bring explosives across the Canadian border. To reach the nearest border wall, just south of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border, he would have needed to drive another 1,257 miles.
The Draft EIS for “Tactical Infrastructure” in the Rio Grande Valley also includes a “No Action” alternative, but dismisses it with the statement, “The No Action Alternative would not meet USBP mission or operational needs.” (ES-2) There is no further explanation as to why it would not meet these needs. This is striking because if one were to look objectively at the facts, it would appear that the needs of the stated USBP mission are currently being met without border walls. No terrorists or terrorist weapons have come across the border in the Rio Grande Valley. More strikingly, the number of illegal crossers apprehended by the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley dropped by 34% in 2007, bringing apprehensions in the area to a 15 year low.
Rather than analyze the Rio Grande Valley’s success, the Department of Homeland Security is poised to impose upon it a border wall that will cost billions and necessitate “the demolition of buildings and structures within the proposed project corridor” (4.11.38) and “the loss of approximately 150 acres of potential ocelot and jaguarundi habitat” (5.8.15), but will not stop border crossers. Despite the Draft EIS's repeated mantra of “prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons”, Chertoff is building the wall to placate xenophobic politicians like Hunter and Tancredo, not to help the Border Patrol do its job. Railing against immigrants and trumpeting the border wall helps them cling to dreams of reaching the White House because no one listens to anything else that they say. They know that the border wall will not protect Texas or the United States from terrorists; it is a politician's prop that only provides a false sense of security.