The No Border Wall Coalition strongly endorses the Border People’s March to Stop the Wall, currently underway on the Texas – Mexico border. Marchers will follow the route of the 57-mile segment of border wall that is being built from Ft. Hancock, Texas, to El Paso, Texas. Led by No Wall – Big Bend and the Border Ambassadors, they plan to highlight the tremendous human and environmental costs of the wall in west Texas and along the entire U.S. – Mexico border.
Marchers will set off from Fort Hancock today, and arrive in El Paso on Sunday, August 31. More information about the march and its route is available at the Border Ambassadors website - www.borderambassadors.com .
Of special concern along the marchers’ route is the impact of the border wall on Native American communities. Like the Tohono O’Odham farther west, the lands that the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of the Tigua Nation calls home lie on both sides of what is now the international border. The Rio Grande is crucial not only for providing water in a harsh, dry environment, it is also integral to their religious practices. As the Rio Grande is walled off, the Tiguas have stated that they will be cut off from graves and sacred sites.
There are laws on the books, most notably the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, that should prevent this assault on the Tiguas religion and culture. But section 102 of the Real ID Act allows Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff to brush aside any law that might slow construction of the border wall. On April 1, 2008 he did just that, “waiving in their entirety” 36 federal laws including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The Tiguas are party to a challenge to the constitutionality of the Real ID Act’s waiver provision, alleging that giving an unelected administration appointee the power to waive laws passed by Congress and signed by the President for the express purpose of subverting the judiciary is a violation of the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. They are joined by El Paso County, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, the Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District No. 1, Galeria 409, The Frontera Audubon Society, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, and the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The wide spectrum of plaintiffs challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s suspension of laws points to the broad range of negative impacts that the wall will have in Texas, as well as the rest of our nation’s borderlands.
The same river that provides a focal point for the Tiguas’ religious ceremonies is equally important for the survival of plant, animal, and human communities. The Rio Bosque Wetlands Park has also spoken out against the wall, stating that, “A fence would limit the ability of native terrestrial species to move between such areas and the floodway. It would limit genetic exchange and would fragment populations that are currently connected.” As habitat is fragmented and access to the river is denied, animals, particularly those that are listed as federally threatened or endangered, may not survive.
With border wall construction currently under way near El Paso and elsewhere, it is critically important that we remind members of Congress that the elections that they are currently obsessed with are just the entrance exam for their jobs. Elections are meant to bring in public servants, and it is their job to serve the best interests of the American people. Building walls that will cut off the Rio Grande, that will disrupt Native American religious practices and disturb graves, that will destroy natural areas such as the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, and will cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, is unconscionable. As our public servants once again come before the American people, asking for our votes, it is important that they know that we will hold them accountable for their actions.