The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Chairman Richard ShelbyMajority Leader Committee on Appropriations317 Russell Senate Office Building Room S-128 The CapitolWashington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510 The Honorable Charles Schumer The Honorable Vice Chairman Patrick LeahyDemocratic Leader Committee on Appropriations322 Hart Senate Office Building Room S-128 The CapitolWashington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510 The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Nita LoweySpeaker of the House Chairwoman, Committee on AppropriationsU.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of RepresentativesWashington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515 The Honorable Kevin McCarthy The Honorable Kay Granger Minority Leader Ranking Member, Committee on AppropriationsU.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of RepresentativesWashington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515 RE: Oppose funding for the border wall and further border militarization in Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger:
As organizations representing civil rights, faith, wildlife and habitat protection, environmental, indigenous, immigrant, LGBTQ+, consumer, and border communities, we continue to urge you to reject funding for new border wall construction (including funds for bollard fencing, levee wall and the conversion of existing vehicle barriers to border walls) and further border militarization on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations process. Such construction causes permanent harms that cannot be remedied. As such, we urge you to stop adding to the over $3 billion already spent by Congress on border barrier construction.
There are already 700 miles of walls, fencing, and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border dividing neighborhoods, blocking wildlife and disrupting the flow of water. These barriers also stand as hateful symbols of division in otherwise connected borderland communities and have contributed to a humanitarian crisis of thousands of migrant deaths. While we appreciate that additional measures were taken to limit the impact of appropriated funds from FY 2018 and FY 2019 on sensitive areas in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, we are extremely disappointed that the FY 2019 Appropriations bill included $1.375 billion in funding for additional border wall construction.We are also concerned that despite having received over a billion dollars in wall funding in FY 2019, President Trump declared a non-existent emergency to raid $3.6 billion from the Defense Department and an additional $2.5 billion from the military for the purposes of building the wall. This brazen attempt to circumvent Congress to secure additional funding is a blatant abuse of executive power and violates one of our Constitution’s core tenants providing legislators sole control over the appropriation of taxpayer dollars. We expect that Congress will continue to express its widespread and bipartisan disapproval of the emergency declaration by denying any additional funds for border wall construction.
Funneling more money to construct additional barriers puts the safety and well-being of frontline border and indigenous communities in jeopardy, enables the destruction of natural resources and wildlife habitat, and exacerbates the extinction of endangered animal species. In fact, according to some estimates, over 13,000 acres of Texas refuge tracts, state properties, county parks and private nonprofit nature sites are slated to be negatively impacted by the construction of additional barriers as a result of the funding appropriated by Congress.
The frontline border communities of south Texas, and elsewhere along the southwest border, are disproportionately impacted by these unnecessary actions to militarize the border at a time when immigrant families are already under threat of deportation and further criminalization. The false narrative of a violent and insecure border region has long been used to justify and advance anti-immigrant, anti-border, pro-criminalization, and anti-environmental legislation that has negative economic and civil rights impacts on border communities.
The wall, increased militarization of the southern border, the criminalization of immigrants and the destruction of wildlife habitat are actions that do not strengthen national security nor improve security of the border region that continues to be one of the safest regions in the country.
As your committees move forward with the FY 2020 appropriations process, we urge you to stop enabling further harm to communities living along the U.S. southern border. Congress should reject all efforts to fund additional border wall construction that draws scarce resources away from urgently needed infrastructure – including schools, roads, and health clinics – for structures that are widely opposed by border communities, unnecessary, extremely costly, and that according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot be measured for their contribution to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s mission and border security operations.
Border security resources would be much more wisely invested in modernizing the infrastructure and technology at our ports of entry, which would improve security, focus on the primary location of contraband trafficking, and facilitate tourism and commerce with our third largest trading partner. It is long past time to put an end to border enforcement measures that waste limited federal resources, inflict harm on border communities, destroy habitat, divert water resources, and harm people and wildlife. A peer-reviewed article published in 2018 in the journal Bioscience and endorsed by more than 2,500 scientists from 43 countries describes the wall’s devastating consequences to biodiversity. Except for vehicle barriers, which create the least impediment for border communities, natural resources, and the movement of wildlife and water across the border, funding for the addition or conversion of all other current barriers constitutes new border wall and should be rejected.
We rely on you to protect the rights of Native Americans and frontline border communities, prevent private property seizures, and stop the devastating environmental, wildlife, and habitat damage by opposing any funding for new border wall construction (including funds for bollard fencing, levee wall and the conversion of existing vehicle barriers to border walls) on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the FY 2020 appropriations process. We urge you to review the recently published report, “Death, Damage, and Failure: Past, Present, and Future Impacts of Walls on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” for more in-depth information about the issues raised here. Thank you for your attention. Our millions of members and supporters nationwide are counting on you.