April 1, 2008
Faced with a litany of lawsuits and objections to its plans to build a 670-mile fence along the border with Mexico, the US administration today moved to bypass more than 30 laws and regulations in its effort to complete the fence by the end of the year.
Opposition to the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build the fence by the end of 2008, has united an unlikely coalition of property owners and environmentalists.
Property owners and developers have launched numerous lawsuits to deny the government access to their lands, arguing that their property rights would be violated or that the values of their homes would suffer.
Environmentalists have launched legal actions against the government, saying that the plans would harm the natural habitats of species ranging from jaguars to owls.
Native American groups have also protested that their traditional lands and burial sites have been desecrated by the fence.
The action by the administration echoes a controversial provision of the 2005 Real ID act, which allowed the DHS to waive any and all laws “necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads.”
That provision is the subject of a legal challenge by the environmental groups the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife questioning the constitutionality of the law. They have petitioned the US supreme court and expect to hear in the summer whether the case will be heard.
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