That’s the question being asked by 43 House Democrats, who wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week urging the administration to consider the environmental and cultural consequences of throwing up a 20-foot-tall concrete barrier at the Mexican border.
The Bush administration, empowered by Congress, waived dozens of environmental and cultural heritage laws in order to hasten fence construction. The Obama White House, thus far, has done nothing to restore those protections.
“This massive federal project has had deleterious consequences upon natural and cultural public resources,” the lawmakers wrote, “and has caused hardship for private land owners, whose lands have been condemned and livelihoods have been disrupted.”
They have a point. Last summer, floods attributed to the border fence did millions of dollars of damage to southern Arizona, including parts of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. In another episode, fence construction destroyed 69 graves of the Tohono O’odham tribe south of Tucson.
To put a face on the communities being decimated by the fence, the Sierra Club has put together a compilation of personal stories. Napolitano, former governor of Arizona and a long-time critic of the border fence, is well aware of such tales. Whether she acts to minimize them has yet to be seen.