Secretary Janet Napolitano
United States Department of Homeland SecurityWashington, D.C. 20528
January 20, 2009
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
At the same time as Barak Obama is taking the oath of office, workers are pouring concrete and welding steel to build the border wall. Today, walls slice through more than 500 miles of our borderlands. As Governor of Arizona, you are certainly aware of both the inefficacy of the wall and its tremendous financial costs. Surely you are aware of the thousands of undocumented migrants who have died in Arizona’s deserts, and the species being driven to extinction by Arizona’s border wall. Those of us who live in Texas hope that you will also take into account the wall’s tremendous toll along our border, and that you will reverse your predecessor’s policies and bring an immediate end to border wall construction.
The overwhelming majority of Texas border residents oppose the border wall, because we can see firsthand the destruction that it is causing without bringing the slightest benefit. If its impacts on the border and the nation as a whole were as positive as outgoing Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has claimed, there would be overwhelming support for the wall. If the southern border was in fact being overrun by terrorists and smugglers who were causing us to live in a state of constant fear, and the wall was a viable solution to such a dire situation, there would be no need to pursue hundreds of land condemnation lawsuits. We would gather at the riverside with trowels and welding torches in hand to help build it.
But we know that the border wall will not save us from threats dreamed up by politicians in Washington, DC who have never seen the Rio Grande. The wall does not even stop those who enter the U.S. to find work. Del Rio, Texas, Border Patrol Chief Randy Hill said, “We're going to see steel barriers erected on the borders where U.S. and Mexican cities adjoin. These will slow down illegal crossers by minutes.” He said nothing about stopping crossers, only slowing crossers down by “minutes.” We are not willing to sacrifice homes, farms, and wildlife refuges for a speed bump.
Instead, a broad cross-section of border residents has come together in opposition to the border wall. The Texas Border Coalition, made up of mayors, judges, and elected officials all along Texas’ border with Mexico has been outspoken in its rejection of walls, and has fought in court to defend the Texas border from further construction. Numerous municipalities have passed resolutions opposing the border wall. The Lone Star Sierra Club Chapter has passed a resolution opposing the border wall, and has worked to draw attention to its tremendous environmental costs. Bishop Peña of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville spoke at a No Border Wall rally, as have a number of mayors and Texas State Representatives.
The Cameron County Commissioners Court passed a resolution which sums up much of the sentiment along Texas’ southern border, saying in part,
"Proponents of the fence, who are not residents of the border region, have wrongly used the construction of a fence as a rhetorical device to transform the issue of immigration from an economic concern to a matter of international relations and national security, and to transfer responsibility for alleged defects in United States immigration policy and enforcement from the United States government to the government of Mexico."
Those of us who live along the border are not willing to see our land condemned, our communities divided, and our parks and wildlife refuges destroyed, for a rhetorical device.
The No Border Wall coalition has circulated a petition that reads,
We oppose the construction of a solid wall along more than 700 miles of the United States / Mexico border. A wall that tears through border communities will cause terrible economic damage, impacting agriculture, ecotourism, retail sales, and private property. It will cause grave social harm, separating families and sending a terrible message to our neighbors. The route specified by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 will take it through National Wildlife Refuges, other parks, and riparian habitat critical for the survival of migrating birds as well as threatened and endangered species. The border wall will cost billions of dollars and even the Department of Homeland Security has said that it will only slow down, not stop, people who cross the border illegally.
To date, 6,501 people have signed this petition. Most are residents of Texas border communities who will be directly impacted by the border wall. This is not an abstraction, a symbol, or a rhetorical device to us. This is our lives. Our families, our children, and our grandchildren will be forced to live in the shadow of a wall that we abhor so that politicians who will never visit our communities can give their voters a false sense of security.
Thanks to last year’s Omnibus spending bill, you will have the authority to either double the current length of the border wall or immediately halt construction. Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff used these powers to condemn private property, decimate wildlife corridors, and build mile upon mile of useless border wall. His retirement was celebrated from Brownsville, Texas, to Tucson, Arizona.
Secretary Napolitano, Texas border communities call upon you to embody the “change” that Barak Obama campaigned on. You must have the courage to speak truthfully to the American people, to admit that we are not safer for having built hundreds of miles of border wall, and our national security will not be enhanced by building another mile or one hundred miles or even one thousand miles. You should restore the rule of law along the border by rescinding the waivers of 36 federal laws that Michael Chertoff issued in order to build border walls. We ask you to shift the Department of Homeland Security’s funds and priorities away from empty gestures and political grandstanding, and bring an end to the border wall.