Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Group of representatives seek to halt border fence construction

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, along and seven other Democratic members of the House have asked President Obama to halt the construction of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, until an evaluation of border security operations being conducted by the new administration is concluded.

'We strongly believe the Bush Administration's approach of constructing a fence along much of the Southwest border was ill-conceived as it was void of any meaningful input from the local communities or the Border Patrol Sector Chiefs who are most familiar with the challenges of securing our border," said the representatives' letter to Obama.

During the Bush administration, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to private contractors to bring the total miles of border fences and vehicle barriers to 600 miles, up from 145 miles in September 2006. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff used a waiver granted to him in the Real ID Act of 2005 on four occasions during his tenure to bypass environmental law and move forward with the fencing project, angering many environmentalists and border residents.

The group's letter criticizes the use of that waiver and violations of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, citing the destruction of 69 Tohono O'odham graves south of Tucson in 2007.

The seven other Democratic members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter along with Grijalva include five from Texas and two from California: Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas; Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; Ciro D. Rodriguez, D-Texas; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Bob Filner, D-Calif.; and Susan Davis, D-Calif.

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