This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it will use its authority to bypass several laws and regulations it claims are impeding the completion of 670 miles of border fence, including the National Park Service Organic Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Antiquities Act, the Native American Graves Protection Act “and 31 other laws.”
Subsequently, DHS will not have to conduct detailed reviews on the fence’s impacts on wildlife, water, and vegetation.
Secretary Michael Chertoff believes we must follow the law — except when he wants to waive it. In a small blogger roundtable yesterday, Chertoff said that “whatever happens” with immigration reform in the future, the public must be be legally compliant:
I think people on all ends of the spectrum should realize that it is in everybody’s interest to get this job done at the border, to enforce the law against employers. … We also need to resolve the problem of people who are here illegally, who have got to comply with the law but many of whom have been here for a long time, and we’ve got to figure out a way to deal with that issue.
But the foundation for doing this is living up to our obligation as it is now. And I would say that whatever happens eventually with immigration reform, there’s no excuse for not complying with the law as it’s been set forth.
If Chertoff would only apply those standards to himself. His waiver represents “the biggest use of legal waivers since the administration started building the fence.” Even White House environmental adviser Jim Connaughton acknowledged the fence may “not meet the strict requirements of the law.” Chertoff also admitted that without the waiver, his fence would run into legal trouble:
Although we want to be respectful of the environment, we cannot afford to get enmeshed in the kinds of litigation that have traditionally cost projects decades to complete.
While the administration claims Congress authorized the waiver with the Real ID Act of 2005, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) noted, the “waiver represents an extreme abuse of authority. … It was meant to be an exception, not the rule.”