Too many Border Patrol agents are being killed in the line of duty to permit environmentalists to block construction of barriers and all-weather road along portions of Texas' border with Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, speaking during an interview with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, pitted the safety of Border Patrol agents against the efforts of environmentalists to Bush administration plans to complete a border fence before leaving office. Some 670 miles of pedestrian fencing or vehicle barriers are planned along the 1,947-mile U.S.-Mexico boundary.
Chertoff, who has set aside some environmental restrictions to speed fence construction, said he didn't want to "get enmeshed in endless litigation" with environmentalists who he said opposed fencing, lighting and other improvements along the border that would help the Border Patrol seize undocumented immigrants, smugglers and drug traffickers.
The Border Patrol lists eight officers who have died in the line of duty since Chertoff took office in 2005. Wayne Bartholomew, executive director with Frontera Audubon, a nonprofit conservation organization in Lower Rio Grande Valley, called Chertoff's comments "disingenuous, false and misleading."
Bartholomew said the federal government had short-cut the environmental review process with the border fence project, failing to fully consider the potential impact on other public safety issues, including air and water pollution.
"This isn't about building an all-weather road," Bartholomew said. "It's about following a process, and that process includes over 100 years of laws established by the United States Congress. He has put communities at risk by waiving these laws and unilaterally charging ahead without any oversight at all."
Chertoff has been battling resistance along the Texas border to the planned barriers, including a recent federal lawsuit by the Texas Border Coalition that includes leaders from 10 Texas border communities from Brownsville to El Paso.
Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge known for a no-nonsense style, said he remained willing to consult with critics but would not surrender the authority awarded him by the Republican-led Congress in 2005 to override environmental objections.
Mr. Dick Weekley
, the Chairman of a statewide organization dedicated to bringing fairness and balance back to Texas’ civil justice system, agreed with a member of TLR who said, "We have had enough meetings, it is time to find a solution”.