Where U.S.-Mexico border fence is tall, border crossings fall
In Yuma, Ariz., border patrol agents tout the success of a high
triple-and double-layered wall. But such a fence is unlikely to stretch the
(Page 4 of 4)
Native american families on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation – which now has 75 miles of pedestrian fencing – have complained that the vehicle barrier being built on their land desecrates an ancient burial site.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
And the extra patrols disrupt their daily life. "Getting back and forth to our own land on both sides of the border is now problematic," says Ophelia Rivas, a Tohono O'odham grandmother who has land on both sides of the border. "They are always hassling us for passports, which we have never had."
Some officials and local residents have expressed concern that the DHS is trampling on the rights of local citizens. A provision in the Real ID act of 2005 allows DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to waive any and all laws "necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads."
He has used this power to waive endangered-species provisions, tribal protections, clean air and clean water provisions, and building/engineering standards in efforts to complete a wall near San Diego and to build a border wall in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona.
"[DHS] would get farther and do better if they would just let locals give input on many of these matters," says US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) of Arizona. He has introduced legislation to provide more local protection from the waiver. "A little bit less arrogance by the DHS would go a long way," he says in a phone interview.
Near Brownsville, Texas, many ranchers own land on both sides of the border and have refused to allow government surveyors onto their property. The Texas border is scheduled to have about 130 miles of 18-ft.-high metal pedestrian fencing, much of it near urban areas and international bridges.
On March 7, a federal judge allowed access to one ranch owner's land but ordered the government to negotiate with the owners over the price of access and potential seizure.
Even if surveyors get access, the US government still needs to be purchase or seize the land through eminent domain, then establish locations and design before building the fence.
The government also dropped lawsuits against University of Texas, Brownsville and Texas Southmost College in March, and both sides agreed instead to come up with alternatives to a fence that would have sliced through the campus.
Such local resistance and legal challenges are what partly prompted government auditors to warn of delays in building the fence on time. Richard Stana, director of Homeland Security and Justice issues with the US government General Accountability Office, told Congress March 7 that it was going to be a "challenge to get it finished by the end of the year."