Protect people, values, wildlife and places on the border and beyond. Restore work, justice, democracy, and the rule of law. Stop the wall, shutdown, fear, hate, lies, and greed. “Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept?” Pope Francis. Yes. We grieve. We weep. And we fight for immigrants, human rights, and the rights of Mother Earth.
Left to right Chairman Raúl Grijalva, Committee Staffer Lindsay Gressard, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Committee Staffer Chris Espinosa, Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI), and Rep. Alan Lowenthal.
House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Members of Congress heard community leaders testify on human rights, ecological, and economic impacts of the wall and shutdown. The hearing was livestreamed.
The wall and shutdown will violate indigenous rights, relies on false and discriminatory notions about border communities, seizes private property of landowners near the border, is ineffective, harms the environment, is opposed by a majority of Americans, and is not necessary.
Trump is trampling tribal sovereignty. The wall would divide the sovereign Tohono O’odham Nation along the border of what is now Arizona and Mexico, forever altering their traditional ceremonies and disturbing sacred burial sites. The indigenous people have been there since time immemorial. Vice Chairman Verlon Jose testified the US has not held respectful government to government consultations about the new wall and is attempting to seize land from the Tohono O’odham people. “We have not had these discussions with the president himself, and we will continue to advocate that we need to have a seat at the table.” “In history, we are one people. . . . Our reservation shares a 62-mile border with Mexico. . . . To build a physical wall along the border would divide not just the land, but also would divide our people. Our nation’s members regularly engage in border crossing for pilgrimage and ceremonies and important religious and cultural sites on both sides of the border.”
The wall discriminates against people of color and low income people who disproportionately live in border communities, as well as immigrants. Robert García of The City Project testified, “I am an immigrant. I arrived here at age four. I graduated from Stanford and Stanford Law School… I am a human rights and civil rights attorney. Our brothers and sisters and cousins and children have graduated from Cornell, Boston University, Princeton, and other elite colleges. They are social and business entrepreneurs, workers, and good citizens and residents. We do not fill only jobs that nobody else wants. We pay taxes. We vote.”
The wall fails to address what is driving people to our borders in the first place. “My family is here because of family migration – the type that Republicans condemn now as ‘chain migration,’ and that Trump’s own family used to stay here.”
The wall does not protect against violent crime. “Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the general US-born population,” says Raúl Garcia of EarthJustice. “Walls and the associated hyper-militarization of the border don’t make us safer or address the root causes that motivate individuals to make the trek to our border. Instead, walls harm those who call the southern border region home, endanger wildlife and the environment, and reflect a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.” Jennifer Johnson, Border Policy Advisor, Southern Border Communities Coalition
The wall destroys property rights in its path. “Hundreds of private property owners in Texas have already been forced to give up their homes, farms, and ranches – some that have been in their families for 250 years” to make way for the wall, according to Ms. Johnson. Thousands of people will have to fight legal battles for their rights, and only wealthy families will be able to do so successfully.
The wall threatens endangered species, ecosystems, and natural areas with great cultural value. According to Marianna Wright of the National Butterfly Center, “there’s this idea that the border lands are a wasteland or unworthy of protection . . . and nothing could be further from the truth.” Endangered and threatened species such as the jaguar – sacred to indigenous people – do not recognize human borders and may experience further harm from drilling and blasting to build the wall, and from flooding and habitat destruction after the wall is built. Building a wall on the Rio Grande floodplain is especially alarming due to risk of flooding in wildlife refuges and south Texas neighborhoods.
Waivers leave people, places, habitat without protections. Waivers exempt the wall from the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and 33 other laws. “The border wall is yet another gimmick used by the Trump Administration to intimidate communities, particularly border and immigrant ones, from exercising their civil rights, including their right to a healthy environment. The wall is a symbol of fear that comes at the expense of our public lands, wildlife, and environmental safeguards that protect border and immigrant communities,” says Raul Garcia.
Americans oppose the wall. Voters oppose a border wall, blame the president for the shutdown, believe the shutdown will have adverse consequences, and don’t believe the government should be shut down over the wall.
There is no immigration crisis at this border. Undocumented immigration is at historic lows. Most undocumented immigrants in the US arrive with papers and overstay their visas. No wall will stop that.
There is no drug crisis at the border. I am a former federal prosecutor, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York – in the Public Corruption Unit and Narcotics Unit – under John Martin and Rudy Giuliani. Most illicit narcotics enter the US through other ports of entry. No wall will stop that.
The wall does not benefit low income African Americans and Latinos by saving their jobs from the threat of low paid immigrants. The wall and shut down are creating an economic crisis. About 800,000 federal workers cannot pay their mortgages and costs of living, and neither can federal contractors and entire communities dependent on federal paychecks. State budgets are threatened making up emergency short falls. Ending the shutdown will solve that economic crisis. No wall will.
Border barriers disrupt the dynamic, cross-border flow of residents that is typical of daily life in border communities. Residents often work and live on one side of the border while dining and shopping on the other. Understaffed ports of entry often have excessively long wait times, deterring cross-border traffic and trade. A 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office summarized multiple studies that quantified the economic impact of wait times; findings ranged from $452 million in the San Diego area alone to $1.9 billion across five cities.
Rep. Will Hurd, who is a Republican and former CIA agent, represents the borderland and opposes the wall. “A wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.” An electronic barrier, not concrete or steel slats, with other measures provides better security.
Rep. Deb Haaland and Robert García, The City Project
Brief video highlights are available below.
Chairman Raúl Grijalva opening statement.
Remarks by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM).
Remarks by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).
Download the written testimony joined by The City Project, Center for Biological Diversity, California LULAC & The Praxis Project.
Rep. Deb Haaland and Mark Magaña, Jessica Loya, GreenLatinos