Trump’s Wall of Shame

Anna King

Anna King is a research associate with the Palast Investigative Fund. Below is her assessment of Trump’s Wall.

The Rio Grande runs through the Cañón de Santa Elena. Mexico is on the left and Big Bend National Park in the U.S. is on the right. Photo: Michael Janke | Flickr.

Václav Havel believed the absence of civil society will inevitably produce economic crime. As history shows, there are no shortage of politicians who simply don’t care about people, but it is much rarer to find one that might stir the dormant goodwill in people. Trump’s strategy as a president is to fuel the fears of Americans. The whole country suffers from the aggression and division. People are in need of hearing that decency and courage make sense again.

I grew up behind the “Iron Curtain” and I happen to understand how division and fear work. The walls and fences around the world are a symbol of the totalitarian regimes and are “relatively ineffective.” These physical boundaries dividing people can have different origins and reasonings, but a wall is above all the admission of a fundamental vulnerability, exposing the fears and anxieties of those whom build it.

While starving the country, cutting down budgets for Public Education, Health Care and the Environment, Trump’s priority is the costly construction of a continent-wide wall, to protect us all from crime and terrorism. But experts claim that: ”A border wall is the anti-terrorist version of the bridge to nowhere. It’s big, expensive, and a waste of resources.”

From San Diego to Brownsville, following the windy path of the Rio Grande with its delicate ecosystem, the terrain presents countless challenges. Arizona and New Mexico are mountainous. The Coronado National Forest, in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, has several 9,000-ft peaks.

“There’s a big gap in our knowledge here scientifically in terms of what actual impacts could be or will be,” said Jesse Lasky, a biologist and professor at Penn State University who has conducted one of the few studies examining the effect of existing barriers on wildlife along the border.

According to a 2013 federal study, even before accounting for climate change the region is expected to run a “staggering” water supply shortage of almost 600,000 acre-feet in 2060. Some Texas border cities have been at the forefront of water conservation, and the U.S. and Mexico have found ways to cooperate on protecting the Rio Grande — until now. The border wall and its construction will effect the Rio Grande, which provides drinking and irrigation water to 6 million people and 2 million acres of farmland on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.

The Tohono O’odham Nation, the people of the desert, is a federally recognized tribe with a reservation that spans 75 miles along the U.S. and Mexico border, which has land on both sides. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed in 1848, subsequent to the U.S. war with Mexico. This treaty ceded the land south of the Gila River to Mexico, creating what is known as the O’odham land. Articles VIII and IX of the Treaty protect the rights of Mexicans whose lands and property became part of the territory of the United States due to the established border line.

Tribal governments have become concerned about a number of issues related to the increased militarization of the U.S. / Mexico border. In 2007, when the Tohono O’odham tribe allowed vehicle barriers to be constructed, the Bush administration ended up desecrating Indian burial grounds and digging up human remains.

Trump would need a stand-alone bill from Congress to condemn their land.
And any company getting U.S. government contracts to build the wall, should be required to put all company information into the public sphere, as well as that of subcontractors-suppliers. Just as analysis of operations and engineering plans and issues should be transparent and available for public evaluation.

Statements made by Indigenous leaders have been striking in their assertion of traditional passage rights:

“We were here long before other countries were established… We are not immigrants. It just so happened that they put the line between us… We did not put any line or border anywhere to separate us. There are no borders among our people.” — Chief Earnie Campbell, Musqueam Nation

“[D]ivided by locality but united by common origin and destiny, we are crossing over this international border that we do not know and do not recognize.” — Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

Article 30 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

1. Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned.

2. States shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.

Article 32 states:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

Article 36 states:

1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.

2. States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure the implementation of this right.

In the 2018 New Mexico Waiver, Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen purportedly waived the following federal statutes with respect to the New Mexico Border Wall Project (Case 1:18-cv-00655 Document 1 Filed 03/22/18 Page 23 of 32):

  • National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4231 et seq
  • Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq
  • Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq
  • National Historic Preservation Act, Pub. L. 89-665 et seq
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703 et seq
  • Migratory Bird Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 715 et seq
  • Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq
  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470aa et seq
  • Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470aaa et seq
  • Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988, 16 U.S.C. § 4301et seq
  • Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq
  • Noise Control Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4901 et seq
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9601et seq
  • Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act, 54 U.S.C. § 320301 et seq
  • Antiquities Act, 54 U.S.C. § 320301 et seq
  • Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act, 54 U.S.C. § 3201-320303 & 320101-320106 et seq
  • Farmland Protection Policy Act, 7 U.S.C. § 4201et seq
  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq
  • National Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, 16 U.S.C. § 742a et seq
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. § 661et seq
  • Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551et seq
  • Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668 et seq
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 25 U.S.C. § 3001 et seq
  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1996.C.

In March 2018 a complaint was filed against the New Mexico Waiver and Secretary Nielsen in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The complaint was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Southwest Environmental Center, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defend Fund.