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Legal Barrier?

Congressman Raul Grijalva sues Trump administration over border wall plans

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) took the fight against President Donald Trump's proposed wall between the United States and Mexico to court last week.

Grijalva teamed up with the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity to file a lawsuit asking the federal courts to ensure that environmental laws—along with all the red tape and studies that come with them—are enforced as Trump moves forward with his plans to flaunt his hideous erection on the border.

"I really believe that a fundamental law we have in this country is NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires transparency, process and an environmental assessment, an intense environmental assessment of any construction by any federal agency that affects public land and that affects communities, wildlife habitat, water and the terrain itself," Grijalva said last week. "It is an appropriate and prudent step before we start talking about (spending) $22 billion, start talking about this fable that's been created about a wall, and investing not only in money but in unintended consequences that will have negative impacts on the environment, the people who live there and all species that are part of that environment."

Keiran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a prepared statement that the proposed border wall "will divide and destroy the incredible communities and wild landscapes along the border. Endangered species like jaguars and ocelots don't observe international boundaries and should not be sacrificed for unnecessary border militarization. Their survival and recovery depends on being able to move long distances across the landscape and repopulate places on both sides of the border where they've lived for thousands of years."

Grijalva isn't the only Southern Arizona member of Congress to express concern about the plans for Trump's border wall. In a break from her usual support for Trump's agenda, Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is also pushing back against the proposal.

In a March 21 letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Director Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, McSally and Texas Congresssman Will Hurd (a fellow Republican who also has a long stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in his district) asked several questions about plans for the wall.

McSally and Hurd wrote that they "recognize the need for robust border security and infrastructure to ensure public safety and increase cross border commerce. However, we also have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and as such have a number of questions."

McSally and Hurd asked how DHS will determine the areas where a wall is needed; whether DHS will consider existing manmade and natural barriers; whether Border Patrol officials, state officials, local law enforcement, ranchers and other stakeholders would have input into whether a wall is needed in different sectors along the border; and whether steps would be taken to ensure that Border Patrol agents would have some kind of ability to see what's on the other side of the proposed 30-foot wall.

The lawmakers said in their letter that physical barriers make sense as part of a plan for preventing illegal border crossings, but "we also believe that an expenditure this large, and submitted with limited details, deserves additional scrutiny to ensure funds are being used effectively in pursuit of our shared goal of securing the southwest border."

As a result of the letter, McSally and Hurd were hammered in a Breitbart News story headlined "GOP Leaders Dropping Border Wall Funds, Says Report."

Citing an article in D.C.-based The Hill, the Breitbart story said that McSally and Hurd had teamed up with House Democrats and were "working around-the-clock to make sure funding for the estimated $12 billion border wall is not factored into the GOP budget."

Elsewhere in border news, Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Nogales last week to announce new guidelines for federal prosecutors to follow when determining whether to seek deportation of undocumented immigrants who encounter local law enforcement, including felony charges for anyone who illegally enters the country a second time; prison time for undocumented immigrants who use fraudulent paperwork to obtain a job; and charges for people who transport undocumented immigrants.

In his speech, Sessions justified the tougher approach because he said the country was under assault by criminal gangs "that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings. It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand." Sessions stopped his statement there, rather than finishing with the dramatic "against this filth" line that was included in his prepared remarks.

Congressman Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ01) was critical of Sessions' new guidelines.

"I have no problem with getting the felons out of the country," O'Halleran said. "But some of these people that they're taking out of the country, they have children that are Americans, and they have not had a violent felony conviction. Here we are, taking mothers away from their children. That's not acceptable. I was a Republican at one time, and we used to run on the value of family, and keeping families together."

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. This week's guests are Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik and Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Mike Varney. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM. Nintzel also talks politics on The John C. Scott show at 4 p.m. Thursdays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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