Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senator Cornyn's Lack of Integrity Brings Texans the Border Wall

Despite the fact that he voted for both the Secure Fence Act and the Real ID Act, in October Texas Senator John Cornyn told the Border Trade Alliance, “I have long said that I do not support a fence, or as some said, a wall, between the United States and Mexico. That’s irrational and just doesn’t make sense, because we know that people can come over fences or walls; they can go under them; they can go through them, given sufficient opportunity.”

Just a few weeks later Senator Cornyn authored S. 2348, the “Emergency Border Security Funding Act of 2007”, showing once again that he values the worst politics ahead of the best interests of south Texas and our nation. It called for 700 linear miles of border wall and 300 miles of vehicle barriers along the US – Mexico border, and provided $3 billion dollars to get construction started. This despite his earlier statement and the fact that the walls built so far have had no impact on the number of people coming across our southern border.

Once again, Senator Cornyn was talking out of both sides of his mouth. When he visited the border, where people know that a wall will do tremendous damage without bringing any benefit, he said that he does not support a border wall. When he went back to Washington he pandered to far-right xenophobes and sponsored legislation providing $3 billion to build the border walls in Texas that he admits will not work, that he knows border residents do not want, and that he claims not to support.

Cornyn also said, "I assure you there will be local consultation. There will not be ... unilateral actions on the part of the Department of Homeland Security without local input." But of course that promise has proved to be false as well. The Department of Homeland Security has not listened to any local input, and has instead relied upon condemnation proceedings to take private and municipal property against the owners’ will. Homes and businesses will be bulldozed, farms and ranches will be cut off from the Rio Grande, parks and wildlife refuges will be destroyed. This destruction was not agreed upon by its victims.

When DHS Secretary Chertoff used the authority granted him by the Real ID Act to waive 36 federal laws to build the border wall, one of those laws was the National Environmental Policy Act. It requires that a project’s impacts on both the human and natural environment be thoroughly examined, and that public input be solicited and addressed. Two days after handing down the waiver Chertoff told the Texas Border Coalition that the Final Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements that had been close to completion would not be released to the public. Thousands of public comments that had been received will never be addressed. Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes said, “it is clear that DHS is not communicating with the border communities that would be most adversely affected by this project."

If Cornyn and other Senators from southern border states were to stand up for their constituents and denounce the border wall on the floor of Congress, it would have an impact on Senators from northern states. Other Senators assume that, representing a state that borders Mexico, Texas Senator Cornyn has some insight into border issues. If he were to show them that the border wall will only slow down, not stop, undocumented crossers, they might listen. If he were to present evidence that the wall will do tremendous environmental damage and destroy the Rio Grande Valley’s $125 million ecotourism industry, they might pay attention. If he were to stand up for property owners in El Paso, Presidio, Roma, Brownsville, and other Texas communities in the face of DHS attempts to trample their legal rights and seize their property, other Senators might support him.

Unfortunately, Senator Cornyn has done none of these things. Instead he has worked to make the border wall a reality, and his support for the wall gives political cover to members of Congress who might otherwise be persuaded to oppose it. So long as he refuses to take a leadership role in stopping the border wall, it is going to be extremely difficult to convince Congress to revisit it. Hopefully Senator Cornyn’s lack of leadership and integrity will catch up with him this November.

No comments: