U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is pleading with Democratic leadership to weigh the environmental impact the Trump Administration’s proposed border wall may create before considering its funding.
In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, Vela and U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona — Ranking Members of the House Committee on Homeland Security and of the House Natural Resources Committee, respectively — urged leadership to consider the preservation of ecosystems and wildlife habitats during funding negotiations for the border wall.
“Protected lands, like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, must be preserved for future generations,” Vela said in the letter. “The reckless border wall, designed to satisfy a nationalist agenda, and little else, will have damaging impacts on the ecosystems and wildlife of the border and on its accessibility. As leadership continues to negotiate provisions that will have a lasting impact on border security, they must not forget the border wall’s impact on Texas’ ecosystems and on its people.
The refuge, considered the “jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” was built in the early 1940s featuring some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, with more than 400 bird species and more than 450 plant species.
Local environmentalists have estimated that more than 165,000 people visit Santa Ana annually. They believe any encroachment on the refuge, which many call “the centerpiece of our ecotourism economy,” would be a “big blow” to tourism locally, as well as exacerbate detrimental environmental conditions.
“It is imperative that Congressional leaders consider the impact of border wall construction on the environment and wildlife,” Thompson said in the letter. “Any border security decisions made today could damage precious ecosystems along the Southwest border for generations. President Trump’s border wall would be a completely unnecessary boondoggle and our environment should not be sacrificed for it.”
Grijalva added, “The border wall is not a bargaining chip, it’s a catastrophe. Anyone who bases their immigration policy on destroying entire ecosystems has no idea how the world works. The American people have lost their patience with President Trump’s ridiculous demands and lack of basic policy knowledge. This border wall fantasy is unpopular. It’s time for it to end.”