Chertoff-“!*[email protected] Off” to Environmentalists

Michael Chertoff, the US Homeland Security Secretary announced yesterday that he is waiving a handful of environmental laws so that the US-Mexico border fence can continue through a national conservation area.


Chertoff stated that delays on the fence’s construction constituted “unacceptable risks to our nation’s security,” and invoked the powers granted to him under a 2005 law relating to the fence’s construction.

The section of fence in question is a 6.9 mile stretch through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Cochise County in southeastern Arizona. The fence is being constructed as a measure to keep both terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country from Mexico.

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the District of Columbia federal court had originally stopped construction on the fence on October 10, citing the government’s failure to carry out an environmental assessment. The Sierra Club and conservation group Defenders of Wildlife had originally brought the matter to the courts in a lawsuit. They called the conservation area one of the most biologically diverse areas in America.

The Department of Homeland Security released an official statement disagreeing with the decision yesterday as it invoked its privilege to waive environmental laws. It cited national security issues, and noted that 19,000 illegal immigrants were stopped in the conservation area in the 2007 fiscal year. They argued the immigrants’ trash, waste, and the environmental damage they caused while traveling through the area caused more damage than the fence would.

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