Michael Chertoff has got a lot of nerve, but he evidently doesn’t have much respect for Arizona, for the federal judiciary or for the rule of law.
The Homeland Security secretary is waiving several federal laws and waving the bulldozers ahead in southern Arizona’s treasured San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
Chertoff blithely dismissed U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle’s Oct. 10 order to delay building fences in the area’s fragile habitat until an environmental review can be done.
And while acknowledging that a fence along the Texas border deserves an environmental study, Chertoff dismisses any need for one in our designated conservation area.
In essence, he is saying: Damn the free-flowing San Pedro River, its flora, fauna and thousands of bird species – and full speed ahead.
That attitude, coupled with Chertoff’s brazen refusal to allow community comment, outraged U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva – and rightly so.
“It is an insult to those of us who live on the border,” Grijalva said. “The secretary’s responsibility is to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment for political gain.”
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose district encompasses the riparian area, said she was “extremely disappointed” by Chertoff’s decision.
Laws that Chertoff is sidestepping range from the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act to the National Historic Preservation Act and the Antiquities Act.
To ignore those acts, Chertoff invoked the REAL ID Act of 2005 for the third time, having done so earlier to finish fencing in San Diego and in the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in Arizona.
Some southern Arizonans wonder whether two miles of fencing in the San Pedro area will merely funnel more illegal immigrants into their neighborhoods, as the Interstate 19 checkpoint reportedly has done.
Environmentalists wonder which animal paths for water and migration will be eradicated by the fence.
Many realists note that fencing hasn’t even slowed illegal immigration; it has only rerouted people into more deadly terrain – sheer cliffs and deep gullies virtually impossible to fence. They wonder how many more migrants will die trying.
All these are valid questions, but we also must ask how such radical changes can be done with no citizen input – and no adherence to the laws of our land.
Illegal immigrants often are criticized for ignoring our laws – yet Chertoff is disregarding our laws in order to supposedly stop the lawbreakers. That’s the irony of our federal government at work.