Los Indios, Texas — The Department of Homeland Security announced this week it intends to expedite construction projects along the border to seal border fence gaps in the Rio Grande Valley, deemed by Border Patrol as a smuggling hot zone.
However, critics say the agency is doing this at the cost of the environment.
Herminia Quintanilla has lived all 77 years of her life in Los Indios. The town is a border community of 1,100 residents located just north of a Bush-era border fence with a heavy presence of law enforcement.
“I feel safe,” said Quintanilla. “I don’t think we need anything else.”
But if you ask Quintanilla if she thinks it’s a good idea to beef up border security with more fencing, she’ll say:
“No, I do not.”
For Quintanilla, a border wall, or fence, is a waste of money that could go into helping people in need. That’s why she believes Wednesday and Thursday’s announcement on the Federal Register by DHS – waiving environmental laws to speed up border wall construction – makes no sense.
“It does not matter. They [smugglers and immigrants] build tunnels, they bring ladders, they cross the wall, there’s no stopping them,” she said.
Los Indios Police Chief Jose De La Rosa isn’t really concerned about immigrants crossing the border, but he feels a different way about drugs.
“Narcotics and illegal smuggling is never going to stop. But adding a fence to these gaps, and the proper security, I think it’s going to help a lot and minimize the problem that we have,” he said. “Because we do have a problem.”
The Center for Biological Diversity created maps of Hidalgo and Cameron counties, outlining in red where the border fence currently exists, and in yellow where DHS intends to finish the job. It essentially walls off wildlife refuges, private property and historical landmarks.
DHS is also waiving a total of 28 environmental laws to deliver on the president’s campaign promise. One that divides both land and opinions.
These are the laws DHS is waiving according to the notice in the Federal Register:
- The National Environmental Policy Act
- The Endangered Species Act
- The Clean Water Act
- The National Historic Preservation Act
- The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- The Migratory Bird Conservation Act
- The Clean Air Act
- The Archeological Resources Protection Act
- The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act
- The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act
- The Safe Drinking Water Act
- The Noise Control Act
- The Solid Waste Disposal Act
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
- The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
- The Antiquities Act
- The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
- The Farmland Protection Policy Act
- The Coastal Zone Management Act
- The Federal Land Policy and Management Act
- The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
- The National Fish and Wildlife Act
- The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
- The Administrative Procedure Act
- The River and Harbors Act
- The Eagle Protection Act
- The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
- The American Indian Religious Freedom Act