Hundreds of people protested the planned border fence in McAllen, TX, Dec. 11, as a federally sponsored “open house” for public comment on a draft study of the project opened. The meeting was the first of three to hear public input on the Environmental Impact Statement for proposed fencing that would span 70 miles of the Rio Grande Valley. Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada said city leaders were to meet with Homeland Security officials to discuss his alternative plan for a “virtual fence.” Angry citizens heckled Homeland Security presenters at the town meeting. “I’m making my comment,” yelled Ruben Solis, who held a “No Border Wall” sign, after being shut up by facilitators. (AP, Dec. 12)
Some senators are questioning a decision by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to conduct an EIS for Texas—but skip one for Arizona, where the fence will traverse the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area. In October, Chertoff invoked power given to him by Congress to waive 19 environmental laws after a court blocked construction across two miles of the conservation area. Homeland Security conducted only an “environmental assessment” for Arizona, with looser standards and less public input. In a Dec. 10 letter to Chertoff, Sen. Joe Lieberman wrote: “By what criteria did DHS decide to conduct an EIS on a regional scale in Texas, but decide it was not appropriate in Arizona or other southern border states?” (AP, Dec. 10)
See our last posts on the struggle for the border.