Maginot fence goes around the law

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waived environmental laws that impeded the construction of a fence on the Arizona-Mexico border. On Oct. 10, a federal judge suspended work on two miles of the fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Naco, Ariz. Chertoff bypassed the ruling on Oct. 22 by using the REAL ID Act. It gives Chertoff the power to waive environmental and other laws to build border barriers.

The laws waived include the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, National Historic Preservation Act and the Antiquities Act. Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club had sued to delay the fence construction.

Chertoff said that, in 2007, there were 19,000 arrests in the conservation area and 14 deaths from illegal border crossings. He said illegal roads affect natural water flow, trash and human waste build up, and wildfires are caused by border crossers’ campfires.

Last year, President Bush signed into law legislation calling for 700 miles of fencing on the United States–Mexico border.