Congressman Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican, and chairman of the Freedom Caucus, along with Republican Representatives Brian Babin of Texas, Jim Banks of Indiana, Jodey Arrington of Texas, and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, sent a letter to President Trump Thursday urging him to reject demands to create openings in the border wall for the sake of wildlife.
In the letter to the president the Republican members write:
“During a recent trip to the Arizona border, we heard concerning reports that activists are calling on your administration to cut wildlife passthroughs into the new border wall. We were surprised to hear that these demands, which will lower the wall’s effectiveness, are being considered.”
“According to an April 2020 article from Arizona Daily Star, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) spokesman commented that CBP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to ‘identify strategies to accommodate larger mammals, such as jaguars, while still meeting U.S. Border Patrol’s operational requirements.’”
“We have already seen the results of having permanent openings in the border wall. Floodgates were installed along certain parts of the border to prevent flooding during the Southwest’s rainy seasons. These gates are commonly opened at the beginning of the summer rains and remain open for months. Predictably, U.S. Border Patrol agents are not the only individuals aware of these openings – drug cartels, human traffickers, and any other individual looking for a way through the barrier use them as an access point. According to a border rancher who we met with during our trip, the gates are no longer opened wide enough for vehicles to drive through, but they are still plenty large enough for traffickers on foot.”
The lawmakers note that any new open wide enough for a large animal to fit through will also be large enough for a human to fit through and that passthroughs for wildlife will likely be used by cartels to smuggle drugs and humans into the United States.
“Border security is national security, and countless Americans are grateful to President Donald Trump for prioritizing border security in his administration. Thanks to his persistent efforts to keep his promises, President Trump has led the construction of over 200 miles of border fencing – a remarkable achievement. Unfortunately, there are many in Congress and around the nation who seek to thwart his efforts to protect Americans and to enforce the rule of law,” Biggs said in a statement.
Environmentalist groups claim the border wall threatens regions like the National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We’re afraid that the wall will act like a barrier when it floods, which it does down here,” La Joya, Texas rancher and environmental activist Betty Perez, told National Public Radio in January. “We get the hurricanes in South Texas. And if that happens the wildlife that are near the river are going to drown. The other thing that’s happening,” she said is “the wall blocks wildlife from getting to the river to drink. That’s their main source of water.”
The lawmakers, however, see little reason to build a border wall intended for security with breaches built into the structure.
“I oppose any effort to weaken the border wall’s effectiveness. It’s crazy we even have to say this, but we should prioritize American’s safety over the travel patterns of ‘larger mammals.’ The wall works, but it doesn’t work as well when there are large holes in it,” Banks said.