President Trump created a crisis over DACA by rescinding the directive that protected from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Now he is holding them ransom, demanding that Congress give him $25 billion for border security, including his “beautiful” wall, in exchange for not rounding up DREAMers and sending them into exile.
That’s a deal that Congress should not only reject, but condemn in the strongest possible terms for the sinister choice that it is. You don’t fix one injustice by creating another. Many people seem to think that the wall, although expensive and offensive, is harmless. “If this is what it takes to protect DREAMers,” they say, “just give Trump his wall.”
The truth is the wall is not benign. It will cause harm to real living beings; not only to the human beings forced to live in its miserable shadow, but also to the wild animals that make a home in the border region.
The wall won’t stop determined people from crossing the border, but it will prevent wild creatures from moving across the landscape to find water, food, mates, and all the other essentials they and their kind need to survive.
Perhaps surprisingly, the border region is one of the most biologically rich areas of our country, a place with a great diversity of natural habitats, where temperate and tropical species mix. Mexican wolves, jaguars, black bears, mule deer, pronghorn, javelin, ocelots and even low-flying birds like pygmy owls are just some of the hundreds of borderland species for which the wall will be a barrier. Wild animals don’t read maps. We share space with them on this planet, but they live in their own universes, mostly unnoticed by us, with their own realities. For wild creatures, the border wall is an existential threat. In the culture wars that produced the wall as political symbol, wildlife are collateral damage. Animals will die in the fulfillment of Trump’s campaign promise, and Congress needs to understand this before capitulating to this blackmail.
Even DREAMers are opposed to Trump’s offer. Jose Aguiluz, who was brought by his family from Honduras when he was 15 years old and who received his DACA status in 2012, spoke for many DACA recipients when he said, “I’m not going to step on top of my community to get ahead.”
Aguiluz understands what is clear to many of us. The border wall is part of a larger agenda that seeks to militarize border communities based on the deliberate falsehood that the border is wide open and out of control. In reality, apprehensions at the border are at the lowest level since 1971. Even the Department of Homeland Security has stated that the border has never been harder to cross undetected. On top of that, border cities like San Diego and El Paso are among the safest in the U.S.
What few people realize is that the Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority under the Real ID Act of 2005 to waive the application of any federal, state or local law deemed necessary to construct the border wall. DHS recently announced it plans to use this authority to build 22 miles of new wall along the border west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico. In the name of bringing law and order to the border, Trump is literally making it lawless.
Instead of accepting Trump’s cynical offer to trade Dreamers for his wall or more border enforcement, Congress should demand nothing less than the opportunity to vote on a clean Dream Act that resolves the DACA issue without supporting any part of Trump’s dangerous border militarization agenda.
Kevin Bixby is executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center. Johana Bencomo is a community organizer for NM café. Astrid Dominquez is director of the ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights.