Thursday, January 15, 2009

Texas Border Coalition Members Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Border Wall Waiver Case

The Texas Border Coalition has written an amicus brief in support of a constitutional challenge to section 102 of the Real ID Act, which gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the unprecedened power to brush aside any law that might slow down construcion of the border wall. Section 102 said, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.” The Texas Border Coalition issued the following press release regarding their support of the constitutional challenge:

EAGLE PASS, Texas (Jan. 14, 2009) – Members of the Texas Border Coalition (TBC) are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by El Paso County, the city of El Paso and others challenging the constitutionality of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s waivers of 37 federal laws and all state, local and tribal laws. Chertoff exercised these waivers in connection with the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In an amicus curiae brief filed today, TBC members ask the Court to address for the first time whether the waiver authority granted to Chertoff by Congress is permissible under the U.S. Constitution.

The brief noted that no appellate court has ever upheld such a broad a delegation of legislative power to the executive branch without judicial review, arguing that the waivers “bulldoze wide swaths of unidentified state and local laws” in a fashion contrary to what the framers of the Constitution intended.

Eagle Pass Mayor and TBC Chairman Foster said, “I hope the justices will seize this opportunity to restore the balance of sovereignty among federal, state and local governments that our nation’s founders guaranteed to the people and eloquently expressed in the Constitution and in the writings of James Madison.”

On April 3, 2008, Chertoff issued two waivers covering almost 500 miles of territory along the Mexican border from California to Texas in an effort to expedite construction of the 670-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.Invoking his authority under Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), the Secretary waived 37 federal laws and all related regulations, including environmental laws, historic preservation acts, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Federal Grant and Cooperation Act, acts protecting the exercise of religious freedom, and the entire Administrative Procedures Act.

Perhaps most troubling is that Chertoff has purported to waive all state and local laws relating to the subject matter of these federal laws, but has not specified which state and local laws have been waived, for how long, or against whom.

TBC members argue that such unrestricted power granted to Chertoff raises profound, unanswered questions about sovereignty – including the local police powers – of the state of Texas and other cities and counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. They assert that the secretary has encroached on the most fundamental aspect of state and local sovereignty, and that is the power to govern by their own duly enacted laws.

“Should the Supreme Court allow these waivers to stand without so much as an argument in defense of liberty, the justices will effectively confer upon an unelected agency chief limitless and unbridled power never dreamed possible by the authors of the Constitution,” Foster said.

The justices are expected to decide this spring or summer whether to hear the case.

For a copy of the brief, please click here.

The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions focused on issues that affect more than 6 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville. TBC is working closely with the state and federal government to educate, advocate, and secure funding for transportation, immigration and ports of entry, workforce and education and health care. For more information, visit the TBC Web site at

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