Ahead of Tomorrow’s Hearing on Managing Federal Lands Along the Border, Grijalva & McEachin Call Out Republicans for Depriving Border Communities of Their Basic Rights

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of tomorrow’s 10 a.m. hearing on Republican calls to further degrade environmental protections along the U.S. border with Mexico, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Donald McEachin (D-Va.), are criticizing Congressional Republicans for their efforts to deprive border communities of basic rights in the guise of increasing border security. Republicans are proposing to waive core protections for air and water quality, Tribal sovereignty, and local awareness and input in the federal permitting process.

Thanks to a previous Republican Congress, the Secretary of Homeland Security already has unprecedented, sweeping, and possibly unconstitutional, authority to waive “all legal requirements” in order to construct barriers (e.g. fences and walls) and roads along the border, including on federal lands. In fact, the Secretary has exercised this authority eight times since 2005, and has waived a total of 48 different legal requirements. A Memorandum of Understanding between Homeland Security and the Interior Department already allows Customs and Border Patrol agents to take any action necessary in pursuit of unauthorized border crossings on federal lands.

“Congressional Republicans are proposing to storm into my backyard, destroy the land I love, and rob my family and the hardworking community I serve of their basic rights,” Grijalva said. Republicans are fueling unfounded immigration fears as part of a scheme to abolish environmental laws they have opposed for decades. If they have their way, the laws that were put in place to ensure all Americans have access to clean air, clean water, and a decent quality of life will be stripped away. This is an attack on low-income communities and communities of color. I proudly live and work in these communities and resent this Republican attempt to demonize them.”

“Rather than having a real conversation about environmental and public safety issues along our nation’s border, this hearing vilifies human beings who, many times, are risking their lives to reunite with their families or escape the violence in their countries,” McEachin said. “The American people do not want or need a wall, especially at the expense of bedrock protections for our environment and our communities along the border. Instead of scapegoating those who are seeking a better life, we should be focused on protecting all Americans’ right to clean air, clean water, and equal participation in the federal decision-making process.”

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) recently visited the U.S.-Mexico border and accompanied Border Patrol agents on the job near Ranking Member Grijalva’s district. Grijalva was not alerted or invited on the trip. Following the trip, the official Natural Resources Committee twitter handle posted a photo of Bishop and Westerman apparently witnessing Border Patrol agents conducting an arrest and captioned the photo with, “We saw firsthand how criminals like MS-13 can exploit legal loopholes to cross the border.” The tweet was perplexing given that these particular “criminals” had obviously failed to cross the border successfully. When Grijalva responded to the tweet, the official Republican account tweeted, “Your district has become the gateway for cartels to smuggle dangerous drugs into the U.S. and poison American communities. Let's #BuildTheWall.” 

Press Contact

Diane Padilla (Grijalva) – 202.225.6065 or 202.226.3522

Jamitress Bowden (McEachin) – 202.225.6365 or 202.306.0546