More than 30 religious, immigration and environmental advocacy groups sent a letter to Democratic U.S. Senate leaders Thursday calling on them to oppose a Republican measure to build more fencing on the southern border.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, said this week that he would introduce an amendment to the financial regulation bill that would require the completion of 700 miles of double-layer physical fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border within one year. In a press release, DeMint said U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials told him only 34.3 miles of double-layer fencing have been completed since lawmakers passed the 2006 Secure Fence Act. "We’ve had rhetoric and promises for four years without results," DeMint said. "It’s time we completed the fence and secured our borders to protect American citizens."
But the advocacy groups — including the Texas Border Coalition, the Sierra Club and the Asian American Justice Center — told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, that the 650 miles of fencing DHS has already completed separated communities and families, cut through significant cultural sites and historic lands, caused damaging floods and erosion, and fractured habitat and migration corridors vital to wildlife pushed to the brink of extinction. More fencing, they wrote, would have far-reaching negative consequences for border communities and the environment. "If Congress perceives that the purpose of border walls is to seal the border from illegal activity, then the program is, and will continue to be, a costly failure," the groups wrote. Plus, they argued, the border fence has nothing to do with financial regulation, so it makes little sense to put the measure in that bill. "We urge you to prevent the harmful and irrelevant provisions ... from coming to a vote."