As you may know, there are already 700 miles of border walls, fencing, and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border dividing neighborhoods, blocking wildlife and disrupting the flow of water. These barriers stand as hateful symbols of division in otherwise connected borderland communities. Despite the existence of these disruptive barriers and the negative consequences to the community, Congress appropriated $1.6 billion for the construction of additional barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in the FY2018 omnibus appropriation legislation. The Department of Homeland Security Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 requests an additional $1.6 billion.
While we appreciate that efforts were made to limit the impact of these appropriated funds, particularly in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the fact remains that funneling more money to construct additional barriers continues to put the safety and well-being of frontline border Latino and indigenous communities in jeopardy, enable the destruction of natural resources, wildlife habitat, and exacerbate the extinction of endangered animal species. In fact, according to some estimates, over 6,500 acres of Texas refuge tracts, state properties, county parks and private nonprofit nature sites are still targeted for impact by the construction of additional barriers as a result of the funding appropriated by Congress in the last cycle alone.
The frontline border communities of South Texas are disproportionately impacted by these unnecessary actions to militarize the infrastructure of 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 thathas negative economic and civil rights impacts on border communities.
Our coalition continues to assert that the wall, increased militarization of the southern border, the criminalization of immigrants and the destruction of wildlife habitat are actions that do not improve security of the border region (which continues to be one of the safest regions in the country). To this point, in 2017, Border Patrol recorded the lowest level of unauthorized migration across the southern border on record.
As your committees move forward with the FY2019 appropriations process, we urge you to stop enabling any further harm on communities living along the U.S. southern border. Congress should reject any efforts to continue funding 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 border security operations.”
Limited 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 security measures that waste limited federal resources, inflict harm on border communities, destroy habitat, divert water resources, and harm people and wildlife. Except for vehicle barriers, which create the least impediment to border communities, the 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.
Except for vehicle barriers, which create the least impediment to border communities, the 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 hope to count on your support to protect the rights of Native Americans and frontline Latino 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 FY2019 appropriations process. Thank you for your attention. Our millions of members and supporters nationwide are counting on you.