Policy Update Jun 11, 2021

NPCA letter outlining considerations regarding border wall funding

NPCA, along with partners, sent the following letter to bicameral appropriations leaders outling budgetary considerations for funding along the United States southern border. 

We write to urge you to provide funding and guidance in the FY2022 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bills to begin to remediate the devastating harms that border wall construction and militarization have inflicted on communities and wildlife in the borderlands.

The prior administration’s insistence on its unnecessary, wasteful, and harmful border wall wreaked destruction on the borderlands and the millions who call the border region home, including damaging lands sacred to the O’odham, Carrizo-Comecrudo and Kumeyaay peoples; desecrating Native American burial sites; dynamiting pristine mountain wilderness; erecting walls in floodplains; separating imperiled wildlife populations; destroying fragile resources in national wildlife refuges, forests, monuments and other public lands; depleting ancient water sources in sensitive desert ecosystems; seizing ranches, farms and backyards from families; risking lives by forcing migrants to cross into more remote regions; and fomenting dangerous racial hatred against migrants and Indigenous peoples.

To expedite this reckless wall construction, the previous Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security waived eighty-four cornerstone federal laws, along with countless unnamed state and other laws and regulations, created to protect the environment, wildlife, religious freedom, historic and cultural sites and taxpayers’ interest in responsible procurement.

We recognize that the Biden Administration has taken an important step in cancelling border wall projects using funds the previous administration had diverted from the Pentagon’s budget. But simply halting the construction of the border wall that has caused so much harm, while important, is insufficient. Congress must provide the resources necessary to restore and repair border communities and lands to mitigate the harms done. We appreciate that during the FY2021 appropriations process, the House version of the DHS appropriations bill directed the transfer of up to $75 million from DHS to the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for mitigation activities related to the construction of border wall and barriers.

While that funding was not retained in the final omnibus bill, the FY2022 appropriations process offers the opportunity for both House and Senate appropriations bills to initiate a robust, multi-agency process to identify the harmful consequences from border walls and other border barriers to the environment, wildlife, communities, and tribes, as well as to ensure sufficient funding to carry out the measures identified to rectify these harms, including decommissioning existing walls and other border barriers, as well as prevent future harm by restricting any funding for border wall construction and land condemnation proceedings. We also caution Congress that a “virtual” wall is not a humane or benign alternative to a physical wall and must be carefully restricted given that “smart” wall and invasive surveillance technologies can inflict harm on the environment and infringe on privacy rights of border communities.

The following should be included in the FY2022 DHS appropriations bill:

  • No new funding for border wall or barriers – and rescission of any remaining and all previously appropriated funding for the construction of a border wall, border barriers, and related infrastructure;
  • Statutory language transferring a sufficient amount of funding from the Department of Homeland Security, including unobligated border wall construction funding, to the Department of the Interior and other agencies with expertise in environmental conservation and mitigation as necessary to begin remediation and restoration efforts, prioritizing the removal of wall segments that cause or threaten to cause imminent harm to people, communities, wildlife and/or the land and restoration of habitat; and
  • Statutory language/report language directing the administration to develop a long-term and comprehensive plan for wall removal, restoration of habitat, and other remediation as necessary in consultation with tribes, border communities, affected non- governmental organizations, and federal, state and local natural resource and environment agencies along with a full estimate of costs.

The following should be included in the FY2022 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill:

  • Prohibit the use of funding by the Department of Justice for land condemnation proceedings for the planning or construction of border wall and related infrastructure.

The massive and needless damage to the border region and its people must be addressed as swiftly as possible. We strongly urge you to address these requests in the FY2022 appropriations bills.