The Biden administration’s decision to waive environmental, public health and cultural protections to expedite construction of a new border wall has angered environmentalists, tribal leaders and community groups in the Rio Grande Valley.
“This is sad and unexpected,” said Lycan Jordahl, border lobbyist at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), amid concerns about impacts on essential corridors for feral cats and endangered plants. “This is a new low, a terrible step backwards for border areas.”
It’s the first time a Democratic administration has offered such a waiver for border wall construction, and for Joe Biden, it’s a significant departure from campaign promises and his efforts to be seen as a climate champion.
“I see the Biden administration playing a strategic game for the election,” said Michelle Serrano, co-director of Voces Unidas RGV, an immigrant rights and social advocacy group based in the Rio Grande Valley. , he added.
The administration’s action is particularly troubling as the climate crisis fuels environmental degradation, extreme weather and mass migration, he added. “Building a border wall is counterintuitive,” he said.
“This is a dehumanizing response to immigration,” said Michael Weindling, director of elections for the youth-led climate justice group Sunrise Movement. “Treating migrants with compassion and addressing the root cause of people having to flee their countries is the right thing to do, which is the climate crisis.”
Following the administration’s decision to approve the Willow drilling project in Alaska, while reneging on promises to stop new drilling, border wall construction will further alienate young voters, he said: “Biden has already created distrust among young voters. This is another terrible reversal of his promises on the campaign trail, ahead of 2024.” It’s a risky move to make.
Among the 26 environmental and cultural protections the administration is abandoning are the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
The Administration’s Proposed 20 New Miles of “Border Deterrence System” Cuts Near Starr County, Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The construction will divide fields where the Carrizo/Camecruto tribe and other tribes provide peyote for sacred use. It cuts through or near old village sites and paths.
“By fostering this, they are committing a genocide,” said Juan Mancias, leader of the Carrizo/Camecruto tribe, who has fought border wall construction through several US administrations though tribal cultural sites and cemeteries. The colonialists “first killed our people, we had to bury them – then you have to dig them up to build them. This is a continuing genocide”, he said.
New sections of the border wall would cut through “some rural, quiet parts of the Rio Grande,” Jordahl said, recently down the stretch of river where the administration plans its construction. “It was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had at the border. Orioles were flapping their wings in the sky, kingfishers, great blue herons.”
The CBD hopes the construction will prevent the recovery of endangered ocelots and cut off wildlife corridors essential to the long-term survival of spotted wildcats. According to the CBD, two endangered plants, Zapata bladderpod and prostrate milkweed, will be threatened by the construction of the wall.
The waivers were announced a month after the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan watchdog. It is called postponement Border wall construction during the Trump administration has destroyed towering saguaro cacti in Arizona, ocelots in Texas, and threatened indigenous cultural sites and burial grounds. The report urged U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of the Interior to develop a damage reduction plan.
His administration has granted suspended waivers, fueling Donald Trump’s interest in building a “big, beautiful wall” along the US-Mexico border. 84 Federal Laws Including protections related to clean air and water, endangered species, public lands, and Native American rights. Biden administration Cancelled One of the administration’s previous waivers was in June.
In July, the central government a solution $1.2bn to repair environmental damage and protect wildlife affected by border wall construction Several states and the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition challenged Trump’s use of military construction and the Treasury Department’s seizure of funds to build sections of the wall.
Now, the president, who once vowed that “not another foot of wall will be built” under his watch, has further discounted his administration’s efforts to speed up construction of the wall. He argued that his administration was forced to build the border fence because funding for its construction had already been appropriated by Congress. “I tried to get them reassigned to divert that money. They didn’t,” Biden told reporters. Asked if he thought the border wall would work, he replied, “No.”
Environmental advocates have disputed the president’s claim that he has no choice but to build a border wall. The administration is under no obligation to waive environmental and public health protections to speed up the work, they argue.
“Why they thought it was a good idea to offer these discounts is a complete mystery,” Jorthal said. “They could have moved forward with the Endangered Species Act still intact, so that endangered wildlife and these areas would have been protected.” He added that having environmental, health and cultural safeguards would have allowed local communities to provide input on the proposed construction and its impact.
“I’m angry,” said Naida Alvarez, who has fought for years against the Trump administration’s attempts to seize land her family has owned for at least five generations to build a border wall. “Biden hasn’t kept his promises — what happened to his word?”
Even after the case to take his property across the Rio Grande was dropped, Alvarez said, he remained uncertain and restless — and continued to voice his concerns about the environmental damage caused by border barriers. “We thought we’d be fine with a Democratic president, and now Biden has done this. We’re getting backstabbed,” he said.