ALAMO, RGV – The co-chairs of the Border Caucus, U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela of Texas and Raul Grijalva of Arizona have penned a letter expressing opposition to the Fiscal Year 2018 Department of Homeland Security bill, which funds the construction of border walls.

 U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva

The letter, which was co-signed U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, Gene Green, Vicente Gonzalez, Beto O’Rourke, Henry Cuellar and Marc Veasey of Texas, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, and Juan Vargas of California, has been sent to U.S. House Appropriators. All the signees are Democrats.

“Making American taxpayers pay $1.6 billion for a portion of the wall is asinine,” said Vela, Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee. “I understand Republicans want to give President Trump one win due to his failed six months in office, but this is just irresponsible. The border wall will rip our community apart, stomp on landowners’ rights, and on the wildlife of the Rio Grande Valley, including the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.”

 U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela

Vela said the Border Caucus intends to oppose bills on the House floor that include funding for border wall construction. He said the House of Representatives is likely to consider a package of security appropriations bills next week that include border wall funding.

“President Trump has once again defaulted on one of his key campaign promises to make Mexico pay for a border wall. Instead he and Republicans are attempting to force American taxpayers to pay $1.6 billion for the construction of an inefficient wall on our Southern border,” said Grijalva, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“The proposed wall will not enhance security, but instead pollute fragile ecosystems, harm international economic opportunities, damage tribal sovereignty and further militarizes border communities. A wall will have devastating impacts to taxpayers, the environment, and countless communities.”

Here is the letter in full:

July 21, 2017

The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen                                                   
Chairman                                                                                                 
Committee on Appropriations                                                                  
H-305 The Capitol                                                                                   
Washington, DC 20515                                                                          

The Honorable Nita Lowey
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Carter                                                                   
Chairman                                                                                                 
Subcommittee on Homeland Security                                                    
B-307 Rayburn HOB                                                                             
Washington, DC 20515                                                                           

The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Lowey, Chairman Carter, and Ranking Member Roybal-Allard:

As Members of Congress who represent constituents who live and work along the U.S. southern border, we write to express our opposition to the funding and construction of border walls, including replacing vehicle barriers with pedestrian walls or the conversion of existing flood control levees into levee-border walls.

While the false narrative of a violent and insecure border region has long been used to justify legislation that has negative economic and civil rights impacts on border communities, the southern border is not a war zone. In fact, communities along the southern border are some of the safest in the United States.

Walls along the southern border separate and intimidate communities, encroach on landowner rights, harm wildlife, and serve as an un-American symbol of hatred toward immigrants who contribute so much to our country. To build the existing wall, hundreds of private landowners and municipalities had their property condemned and lawsuits are still dragging through federal courts. The placement of the existing wall also forced U.S. citizens to live in a “no-man’s land,” between border barriers and the actual border. Additional walls would mean that hundreds more would lose the farm and ranch lands that provide economic support for their families and border communities.

Lands set aside by the Federal government for conservation and protection, from the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, have also been torn apart by border barriers. The continued separation of protected lands, including the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, will push endangered ocelots, jaguars, Sonoran pronghorns, and other species closer to extinction, and will irreparably harm eco-tourism industries.

In Nogales, border walls contributed to flooding that resulted in millions of dollars of damage and the drowning of two people. In other areas, sections of the border wall have been ripped out and washed away by floodwaters. The conversion of vehicle barriers to pedestrian walls across river beds or the erection of border walls in the Rio Grande flood plain pose a serious flooding risk to ecosystems and communities.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in February that maintaining the existing border walls and patrol roads will cost $3.5 billion over the next 20 years. The same GAO report also found that Customs and Border Protection has not demonstrated that the 654 miles of existing border wall has had any impact on border security. We oppose the FY 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill which funds the construction of border walls. We will also oppose bills on the House floor that attach poison pills like border wall funding, including the replacement of vehicle barriers with pedestrian walls and the conversion of existing flood control levees into levee-border walls.

Sincerely,

FILEMON VELA, Member of Congress                                              
RAUL GRIJALVA, Member of Congress
JOAQUIN CASTRO, Member of Congress                                 
RUBEN GALLEGO, Member of Congress
GENE GREEN, Member of Congress                                                   
VICENTE GONZALEZ, Member of Congress
BETO O’ROURKE, Member of Congress                                           
JUAN VARGAS, Member of Congress
HENRY CUELLAR, Member of Congress                                              
MARC VEASEY, Member of Congress