More Border Walls Means More Border Deaths, ACLU Says In Report
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report detailing the dangers inherent in the proposed U.S.-Mexico wall. Other environmental groups joined with ACLU to condemn the proposed border wall, saying it is politically motivated and not based on facts. Human rights groups also lent their voices, calling on Congress to decline funding for an expanded border wall later this month.
The groups said “emotional appeals and symbolic gestures” have dominated policy-making on border wall decisions and “as a result, the U.S. has turned away from addressing the complex causes of immigration and smuggling, and a careful consideration of the most effective ways to respond to these issues.”
In the report, ACLU stated the existing 654 miles of border wall impacts negatively on communities living along the border. The report also cited the wall is a disaster to the surrounding environment and impedes migration of endangered species, and that an expansion of this wall will be an environmental curse instead of a blessing.
ACLU Accuses DHS of Lying To Justify Construction of Walls
The ACLU report focused on border infrastructure built after the Real ID Act of 2005, which gave the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to suspend laws that would impede the construction of border walls. As a result, dozens of environmental laws were waived in the building of new border wall infrastructure.
The ACLU also accused DHS of wrongly classifying San Diego and El Centro as areas of “high illegal entry” in order to justify waiving environmental laws. Government figures from 2016 show El Centro is seventh out of nine southern border sections in regards to apprehensions and San Diego apprehensions were down to 1968 levels. A judge’s ruling allowing the government to suspend environmental laws in favor of border wall construction is pending an appeals ruling in the Ninth Circuit.
More Border Walls Means More Border Deaths for Immigrants and Natural Wildlife
Officials from the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) said the buildup of border wall construction is harmful to Tijuana, a Mexican community along the border. Pedro Rios of SBCC revealed numerous trees were felled, while homes and shrines and ancestral facilities risk demolition once construction begins for the border wall. The Tijuana Estuary habitat may also be impacted.
In citing a study by the Center for Biological Diversity, a southwest conservation advocate, Randy Serraglio, said 93 threatened and endangered species would suffer if the government goes ahead with the border wall across the southwest. ACLU noted that existing walls have destroyed several habitats and disrupted the migration activities of endangered species such as the jaguar, Sonoran pronghorn, Mexican wolf, and ocelot in several places.
Existing walls have also obstructed the flow of water, acting as dams to the detriment of wildlife and natural water flows.
A contiguous wall “would result in an unprecedented, continent-wide splitting of transborder habitat and wildlife corridors, with enormous long-term deleterious consequences for the rich biological diversity of North America,” according to the report.
Just last July, 3,000 scientists backed a scientific paper saying an expanded border wall along the U.S. – Mexico border would threaten more than 1,500 animals who called the diverse area home.
“Any substantial construction ordinarily forces populations to extinction directly by outright destruction of their habitat or by reducing population size or restricting access to critical areas required seasonally. Every time you see a strip mall, airport or housing development being constructed, you can be sure biodiversity is suffering. Many hundreds of miles of border wall and the accompanying construction and maintenance infrastructure would be a crime against biodiversity,” the study author Paul Ehrlich said.
The ACLU report also says that new border walls have just forced immigrants to risk crossing more dangerous territory like desserts and resulted in more deaths from environmental exposure and dehydration. “Funneling” has not stopped or deterred immigration overall, but rather just moved the points of entry.
“More border walls means more border deaths,” said ACLU Border Rights director Astrid Dominguez.