When Congress enacted the Real ID Act in 2005, few people appreciated just how radical a piece of legislation this was. Yes, it introduced a drivers’ license data base that many folks astutely compare to a national ID card. It also threatens to create havoc on the roadways by denying undocumented immigrant drivers a chance to get a drivers license and insurance which comes in handy in case of a car wreck. Real ID also incongruously included provisions that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over immigration matters, which creates a damning tilt toward unfettered executive powers over immigrants.
I thought all this qualified Real ID as one whopping, dangerous piece of law. But just today, additional horrors of Real ID were revealed: a coup at the border.
It was announced that section 102 of the Real ID Act provides the justification DHS Secry Chertoff says he needs for DHS to waive about 36 existing (mostly environmental and land management) laws enacted by Congress that pertain to DHS efforts to construct a border fence (18 foot steel and concrete) along the US-Mexico border from California to Texas.
As of today, the rule of law, and separation of powers no longer apply to the DHS’s SBInet efforts to construct a border industrial complex. The rule of law would take too long, Chertoff suggested today, and would slow efforts to stop “illegal immigration,” an occurrence ongoing since the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, and regulated since the 1924 creation of the US border patrol. According to Chertoff, “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.”
As reported in the Earth Times, Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife laments:
“Thanks to this action by the Bush administration, the border is in a sense more lawless now than when Americans first started moving west….”Laws ensuring clean water for us and our children — dismissed. Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance — just a bother to the Bush administration. Laws giving American citizens a voice in the process — gone. Clearly this is out of control.”
How to make sense of the border coup? I suggest considering the following: 1) the clock is ticking on an Administration whose border control policies have sucked as much as its other failed neo-con policies . 2) Abiding the rule of law is time consuming. 3) Bush’s unitary executive power theory suggests he need not so limit himself to the rule of law; 4) Bush business cronies at Boeing, the recipient of the $67 million contract to build the failure of a virtual fence project, also provides the steel for the physical fence, and along with several other SBInet firms, Boeing manages, oversees (itself a shameless contradiction) and consults on the construction of the physical border fence and other SBInet activities. Getting the fence in the ground before the next Administration takes over is the surest way to avoid cancellation of this projected $49 billion fence boondoggle.
Who wins? Boeing and other Bush corporate cronies (SBInet firms) and remaining neo-cons who still wrongly insist 9/11 hijackers crossed the border.
Who loses? all law abiding citizens; all people who believe in the constitution; all border residents, particularly land owners of mostly modest means; all immigrants
In addition to all adherents of the rule of law, the most immediate losers here include all the American people who collectively are proprietors of the national and state park lands, and wildlife preserves (including the San Pedro River in Arizona) that are going to be destroyed by the fence. In addition, DHS is forcibly removing individual middle class and poor families who own property along the targeted path of the coming fence. The govt. has already sued more than 50 property owners in South Texas to gain access to the land. Now, DHS no longer need wait out such nuisances as damage assessments, court hearings and other due process entanglements.