Environmental laws waived for construction
By Lina Fisher, 1:46PM, Fri. Oct. 6, 2023
The Biden administration announced Oct. 4 that it will waive 26 laws in order to continue construction of 20 more miles on the border wall in Starr County, as Donald Trump commonly did, and local Democrats are appalled.
President Joe Biden defended the decision, saying his hands are tied: The funds were appropriated in 2019 before he took office and Congress refused to redirect them. He told reporters Thursday, “They have to use the money for what it was appropriated. I can’t stop that.” Still, Biden condemned border wall spending during his campaign, and one of his first actions as president was to halt former President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency that he used to funnel money into the border wall in 2019. However, border construction has continued during his tenure, despite that when asked if he thinks the wall will work, he answered “no.”
U.S. Rep. Greg Casar wrote in a press release, “Republicans may have pushed for this funding in 2019, but President Biden did not have to take extra steps to make it easier to build a border wall in South Texas. It’s Democrats’ job to push back against border walls.” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district spans the Rio Grande Valley, wrote in a statement that “a border wall is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem. It will not bolster border security in Starr County.”
Aside from the ineffectiveness and inhumanity of the border wall, there are environmental implications – the laws being waived include the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. Environmental advocates have long flagged that the wall disturbs ecosystems and animal migration patterns. “What we see are more migrant deaths, sacred Native American sites destroyed, critical wildlife corridors interrupted, the free flow of water blocked, and the erosion that has compromised the border infrastructure itself,” Erick Meza, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter borderlands coordinator, wrote in reaction to the decision. “All this money will be wasted without addressing any of the root causes of immigration and the worsening climate crisis.”
Director Dave Cortez added, “Donald Trump and Congress created a problem when they launched construction of this ineffective, destructive, and racist border wall, and President Biden isn’t standing up to stop it.”
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.
A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.