Border fence redux

This is a guest editorial in Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star by the President of the Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Well worth a read!

BTW, I have a couple of good Q&A’s in the works. Stay tuned!

The Arizona Daily Star

Published: 09.24.2007

With regard to fences, one size doesn’t fit all

Opinion by Roy M. Emrick


The Star’s front-page story (“New border fence rising,” Sept. 9) quotes a former Border Patrol supervisor as saying that everywhere a fence has been put up it has worked. Maybe it has worked right on the other side of the fence, but statistics show that all the fences so far have reduced neither the amount of border-crossing traffic nor the number of deaths, just shunted them into more remote areas.

The Department of Homeland Security pretends to do environmental assessments, but they are on a divide-and-conquer basis.

For example, the one for the Sasabe fence essentially says that all they are doing is replacing the existing vehicle barrier (which allows all critters to pass) with a 15-foot-high barrier with 4-inch-wide gaps.

Homeland Security somehow couldn’t see the difference, so it concluded there wasn’t any environmental effect.

Except on the Barry M. Goldwater Range and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in which the REAL ID Act was invoked so that Homeland Security didn’t have to follow the rules, all of the fences and walls being built along the border have had environmental assessments done for just the affected segments. So, of course, Homeland Security could find no significant environmental impact for the individual segments.

Recall that the Sasabe environmental assessment allowed zero days for public comment. Homeland Security didn’t want to hear how weak its arguments were.

Similarly, for more than 30 years environmentalists have been trying to get a comprehensive, basinwide environmental impact statement for the Colorado River basin. Instead, the water interests have succeeded in getting only bit-by-bit impact statements for individual projects, to the detriment of the watershed. The Colorado is in real trouble.

What is really needed is an environmental-impact statement for the entire length of the border wall.

In this context, it is ludicrous to do another assessment for the 0.8-mile section of the seven-mile Sasabe fence, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. We know what the result will be.

Nevertheless, the refuge manager deserves great credit for doing a proper study with public input. Given the fact that the walls already built elsewhere are diverting traffic to this area, the manager says that a wall is needed to bridge the gap and protect the refuge.

Thus, divide and conquer will again subvert environmental protection.

As long as we do not address the causes of undocumented immigration — such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Farm Bill’s subsidized crops and lack of immigration reform — the pressure will grow and walls will continue to be ineffective.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva’s Borderlands Conservation and Security Act, H.R. 2593, is a good start in the right direction to do a rational analysis of each segment of the entire border rather than build a one-size-fits-all wall. Grijalva’s bill deserves our support.

Write to Roy M. Emrick at

3 Responses to “Border fence redux”

  1. Dear Kitty. Some blog :: Bush’s ’supersize Berlin wall’ stops jaguars from returning to the USA :: August :: 2007 Says:

    […] the New Zealand Herald: Security fences prevent jaguars coming […]

  2. Dear Kitty. Some blog :: Bush policies threaten United States Wildlife Refuges :: June :: 2008 Says:

    […] The Bush administration is planning to build a 700-mile double fence along the southern border of th…, dividing the Sonoran desert and the refuge to block human migration routes. They will also impact wildlife. […]

  3. Bush’s ‘supersize Berlin wall’ stops jaguars from returning to the USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog Says:

    […] the New Zealand Herald: Security fences prevent jaguars coming […]

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