Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 22, 2015

Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504,

Congress Considers Destructive Border Security Proposals

Bills Would Expand Waiver of Environmental Laws in Border Region

TUCSON, Ariz.— The U.S. Congress has taken up consideration of HR 399, which would dramatically ramp up ongoing militarization in the southern border region in the name of “border security,” including in some of the most sensitive and important wildlife habitat in the nation. The bill would also permanently exempt border security activities from more than a dozen environmental laws within 100 miles of the Mexican border, including the Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. The “Secure Our Border First Act of 2015” was introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). A companion bill in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday, would extend the waiver of laws to the Canadian border as well.

“HR 399 is yet another unnecessary, expensive and destructive border security bill that would sacrifice America’s natural heritage for the illusion of security,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill threatens to transform the national parks, refuges and other public lands of the border region into militarized zones unfit for people or wildlife.”

H.R. 399 would mandate $10 billion to be spent over the next 10 years to pursue absolute “operational control” of the U.S.-Mexico border, which is defined as apprehension of every person who crosses unlawfully into the United States. Among other expenditures, billions of dollars would be spent on drones and other surveillance technology, maritime militarization, increases in Border Patrol and other security agency staff, military deployments, forward operating bases, and on new construction, refurbishing and maintenance of hundreds of miles of walls and roads.

“The southern border region is home to a rich variety of wildlife that would suffer great harm as a result of these proposals,” said Serraglio. “Many borderlands species — jaguar, ocelot, Sonoran pronghorn, and cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, to name a few — are found nowhere else in the U.S., and their survival depends on public lands and environmental protections that would be trashed under these bills.”

“The notion that border security activities are restricted on public lands is a canard cooked up by politicians who have long targeted environmental protections and see border security as the perfect excuse to scapegoat these critically important laws,” said Serraglio. “Border security agencies have greatly improved their working relationships with land managers in recent years. Waiving environmental laws in the borderlands is foolish, unnecessary and unfair to the people and wildlife living there.”

“Several similar bills have failed to advance in recent years, as many members of Congress turn away from ineffective, wildly expensive and overblown border militarization strategies and focus instead on comprehensive immigration reform and real solutions,” said Serraglio. “The Center urges all members of Congress to vote against HR 399 and any other bills that would trade away the health and well being of the borderlands for an illusion of security.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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