Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke believes that illegal immigration has made the U.S.-Mexican border an “environmental disaster.” But unlike other environmental disasters, he thinks this one justifies his employees’ time.
In a Fox Business Network interview on Thursday, first reported on by The Hill on Sunday, Zinke attempted to justify sending National Park Service and U.S. Park Police to enforce immigration laws based on environmental reasons and to defend the need for Trump’s wall.
“There is garbage. There’s needles. There’s habitat destruction. It’s unfettered and we need to shut the border down for a number of reasons, but environmentally…” he explained.
Taken aback by the argument, an incredulous host Stuart Varney asked, “You mean you want to build a wall because the immigrants are putting litter all over the place?”
Zinke affirmed that he does. “I’m in charge of federal lands. I’ll be the steward of our federal lands.” Noting that 40 percent of the southern border is under his department’s control, he smiled and said, “The leftists, they have no policy arguments. They’re just emotional about it. I’m not emotional, I’m practical. I’m a former Seal Team 6 commander. I look at it — the president says do it. I look at the resources I have available and let’s get it done. It’s just simple as that.”
Zinke, whose tenure in Donald Trump’s cabinet has mostly been notable for his series of ethics scandals relating to his use of taxpayer funds for non-job related purposes, has not shown much interest in environmental or climate protection in places other than the border.
As the Trump administration proposed draconian cuts to his department — including an 80 percent reduction in money for climate efforts — Zinke has supported his boss, embracing the cuts, saying there is “no such thing as clean energy,” praising withdrawal from the “badly negotiated” Paris climate agreement, and claiming that there are “no models that exist” to determine what climate change will be. According to a running list by National Geographic, Zinke’s Interior Department has also relaxed numerous environmental protections.