In a letter sent this morning, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) urges senior federal land management officials to protect federal public lands in Texas from the impacts of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposed construction of new sections of wall, using state taxpayer money and private donations, along the U.S.-Mexico border. In his letter, Grijalva draws attention to the two national parks and dozens of other federally protected sites in Texas within 100 miles of the border – a zone in which, using an expansively interpreted statute passed after 9/11, President Trump routinely waived environmental laws to speed wall construction regardless of harms to environmental quality, historic preservation and cultural expression.
The letter, available online at https://bit.ly/3eaAgOn, is addressed to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Daniel Avila, Acting Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States Section. In requesting their assistance, Grijalva writes in part:
The Trump administration’s decision to repeatedly abuse the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority to waive all laws and legal requirements in order to expedite border wall construction only worsened the impacts; border wall construction occurred without the appropriate environmental assessments, public health protections, or Tribal consultation. As a result, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently accepted my request to determine the extent of the border wall’s damage to cultural and natural resources. The Trump administration’s destructive actions must cease and be rectified, not emulated.
Grijalva points out that wall construction projects are known to be high-risk targets for financial abuse. A recent GAO report shows that the Trump administration’s approach to awarding construction contacts for the border wall put more than $10 billion in taxpayer dollars at high risk for waste and inefficiency. Brian Kolfage and Steve Bannon, heads of We Build the Wall, were both indicted on wire fraud and money laundering charges, allegedly using hundreds of thousands of donated dollars for personal expenses.
“As a representative of a border district myself, I know that border residents do not want militarization of their communities with walls, razor wire, and droves of National Guard troops, including those from faraway states like South Dakota, Idaho, and Florida,” Grijalva writes. “I urge you to protect Texans and Texas’ invaluable public lands and resources from further unnecessary harm, expense, and sacrifice.”
The Committee held a Feb. 26, 2020, hearing titled Destroying Sacred Sites and Erasing Tribal Culture: The Trump Administration’s Construction of the Border Wall to examine the destruction of Native American sites during wall construction. The Trump administration refused to send witnesses to testify despite Committee outreach to both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.