The South Texas organizations have joined a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of section 102 of the Real ID Act, which gives Secretary Chertoff the power to waive any and all federal, state and local laws in order to facilitate construction of the border wall.
The suit claims that by placing the authority to unilaterally suspend all laws in the hands of a single Administration appointee, the Real ID Act violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.
As organizations dedicated to the preservation of South Texas’ remaining wildlife habitat, these groups assert that if environmental laws are waived, years of effort to protect species and restore critical habitat will be lost.
In April DHS Secretary Chertoff announced that he was using his waiver power to ignore 36 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, in order to speed up construction of over 300 miles of border wall.
The only reason for Secretary Chertoff to waive these laws
is that he knows that the border wall violates them.
The fate of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge system is of particular concern. Consisting of individual tracts of native habitat linked by the Rio Grande, it creates a wildlife corridor, providing endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarundi sufficient territory to find food, water, and mates.
Migratory birds also rely on it to rest and refuel on their annual journeys, as well as for nesting. Maps released by DHS show the border wall slicing through many refuge tracts, and cutting off others from the river.
"It's taken 30 years, $80 million, and back-breaking effort to create an 80,000 acre wildlife corridor along the last 250 miles of the Rio Grande. To put a fence or wall through that is insanity," said Keith Hackland, President of the Friends
of the Wildlife Corridor.
“Currently, there are only 80 to 100 wild ocelots remaining in the continental U.S., and they cannot hope to survive without the wildlife corridor and the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Shane Wilson, President of the Friends
of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. “The border wall, as proposed, will ensure that future generations will never witness the spectacular beauty of seeing an ocelot in the wild.”
In their suit, the organizations ask the court to declare section 102 of the Real ID Act unconstitutional and to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from building walls, roads, or other infrastructure on the border that do not fully comply with all of our nation’s environmental laws.
"To instantly dissolve 96 years of environmental laws and protection with a mere wave of the hand is nothing short of monstrous,” said Jim Chapman, Board President of the Frontera
Audubon Society. “If laws can be so easily swept aside on the border, the same precedent could be applied anywhere, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Yellowstone National Park. If
our nation’s laws are optional, they aren’t really laws.”
The Frontera Audubon Society, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, and the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge are joined in this effort by a diverse group of plaintiffs along the Texas-Mexico border: El Paso County, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, the Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District No. 1, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo of the Tigua Nation, and Brownsville’s Galeria 409 owner Mark Clark. The law firm of Mayer Brown LLP will be representing them.
This suit follows a March request by the Sierra
Club and Defenders
of Wildlife for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of Secretary Chertoff's waiver authority.
For over 30 years the Frontera
Audubon Society has sought to preserve and protect wildlife and wildlife habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and educate its members and the public as to its immense value.
of the Wildlife Corridor seeks to restore and connect habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that is critical to the survival of endangered species and other wildlife.
In April the Department of Homeland Security waived the following federal
The National Environmental Policy Act
The Endangered Species Act
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act) The National Historic Preservation Act The Migratory Bird Treaty Act The Clean Air Act The Archeological Resources Protection Act The Safe Drinking Water Act The Noise Control Act The Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act The Antiquities Act The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act The Farmland Protection Policy Act The Coastal Zone Management Act The Wilderness Act The Federal Land Policy and Management Act The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act The Administrative Procedure Act The Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999 Sections 102(29) and 103 of Title I of the California Desert Protection Act The National Park Service Organic Act The National Park Service General Authorities Act Sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of
Sections 301(a)-(f) of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 The Eagle Protection Act The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act The American Indian Religious Freedom Act The Religious Freedom Restoration Act The National Forest Management Act of 1976 The Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960