House Sneaks Through Bill to Fund Border Wall Expansion that Could Cause Irreparable Harm
Last Thursday, we witnessed a series of important votes in Congress that would affect millions of Americans, and mark a dangerous movement toward border policy priorities that goes against the beliefs of most Americans.
Walling Off Wildlife
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a $789 billion spending bill (H.R. 3219), referred to as the security “minibus,” that bundles four of the 12 spending bills to fund the federal government beyond September 30. Even though funding of Homeland Security spending was not included in this package, lawmakers snuck in a massive $1.6 billion to pay for a 70-mile expansion of President Trump’s border wall through a procedural vote that shielded members of the House of Representatives from accountability for their votes.
Defenders decried this funding when it was first proposed earlier this month, pointing to how the majority of Americans oppose construction of the border wall and how the wall would divide, bisect and isolate important Southwestern landscapes thereby pushing borderland wildlife like jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots to the brink of extinction. Expanding the border wall would cause irreparable environmental, social and economic damages. Furthermore, funding this ill-conceived border wall would waste massive amounts of taxpayer money and divert much-needed federal dollars away from other, more deserving programs that would better serve the interests of our country’s future, its national and global security and the welfare of communities and wildlife.
Defenders has been working as part of a broad coalition, including leading civil rights organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to oppose expansion of the border wall, which poses major threats to wildlife, communities, private lands, and now potentially wildlife refuges on our Southern border.
A Refuge No More?
In addition to our on-going concerns about the expansion of a border wall, we are now closely monitoring the latest threat it poses as preparations have already begun for sections to be built through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a biodiversity hot spot and one of the top birding destinations in the world. It is home to approximately 400 species of birds and important habitat for the endangered ocelot and jaguarundi cat species among many other rare species found only in deep South Texas. The refuge is part of an important wildlife migration corridor running along the length of the Rio Grande and on into Central and South America.
Defenders is preparing to fight this new development, which would destroy one of our most celebrated refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Recent reports indicate that construction of a three-mile segment of the wall cutting through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge could begin as early as November using funding already in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection budget.
In the meantime, the security “minibus” is headed to the Senate floor and it will need to pass its own version of the bill. This is only the beginning of the contentious border wall discussion in Congress as the controversial issue is expected to garner more attention in the weeks leading up to the deadline to fund the government on September 30th.
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