Donald Trump made it clear earlier this week that he was willing to wage all out war on the U.S. government if that’s what it takes to get them to give him money to pay for his border wall, his biggest vanity project since whatever last garish building he slapped his name on. While he hasn’t managed to wrest funding from either Congress or Mexico, the administration has already started moving forward with private land seizures. They’ve also, it turns out, been quietly exempting themselves from environmental and public health laws in the hopes of speeding up construction.
According to The Guardian, the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the country, the 100-acre National Butterfly Center in Missions, TX, is in the way of Trump’s wall. Normally, the federal government wouldn’t be allowed to cut through and demolish sections of the sanctuary, but the Supreme Court ruled last week that the administration had the right to waive 28 laws that would otherwise have prevented or slowed construction. Now, it’s likely to be bulldozed.
A small sample of the laws that the Court decided the Trump administration doesn’t have to follow include: the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. This seems extreme, but it’s now common Republican ideology that laws and regulations that protect the environment and public health are overly burdensome obstacles for businesses, and it should be up to the free market to determine who does and doesn’t have access to things like drinking water.
But there’s an even more insidious aspect to how and where portions of the wall will be built. From the Guardian:
“This is not just that they will drive ocelots to extinction,” said [Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club Borderland team], referring to the critically endangered wild cat found in the Rio Grande Valley. “Families trying to come into this country will be pushed into the desert to die.”
“Border walls are death sentences for wildlife and humans alike,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center, an organization that works to restore and protect native wildlife and habitats. “They block wild animals from accessing the food, water and mates they need to survive. They weaken genetic diversity, fragment habitat, and trap animals in deadly floods. At the same time, they drive desperate asylum seekers to risk their lives in the unforgiving desert.”
That’s the point, or course. Trump is a fan of using punishing deterrents, and has admitted himself that his family separation policy was designed to horrify immigrants into not trying to enter the U.S. And the Border Patrol has long had an unofficial stance that it’s preferable for people to die crossing the desert than to make it across and be arrested, as shown by video evidence of officers destroying water left throughout the border region to keep migrants from dying of dehydration.
If the administration is willing to so casually engage in atrocities at the border, it should come as no surprise that they’re fine with ignoring laws meant to keep both people and the environment safe and healthy.