By Krista Schlyer
Hold the applause for the Senate’s immigration bill.
It would spend $50 billion on border enforcement measures that are not only ineffective but also destructive. The bill provides $7.5 billion for 700 miles of border wall to be built — a wall that people can scale in less than 30 seconds.
Border walls and other barriers already span 650 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. They have not stopped human traffic, but they have blocked migrations of endangered jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundi and hundreds of other imperiled wild species. Construction of this wall has also destroyed rare habitat throughout South Texas, with less than 5 percent of native habitat remaining in the region.
Building of the wall has also meant forcibly taking land from people in the Rio Grande Valley, people who were deeded their land not by the U.S. government, but by the king of Spain 250 years ago. And building the wall has contributed the death of 6,000 migrants as they try to navigate through our militarized border.
If the Senate bill becomes law, it is likely that three of North America’s six cat species — the ocelot, jaguar and jaguarundi — will go extinct within the borders of the United States. It is certain that thousands more acres of wilderness, national parks, national wildlife refuges and personal property will be destroyed by the U.S. government. And many more migrants will die trying to come to the United States.
Promise of citizenship
For all this destruction, the Senate is offering a tentative 13-year promise of citizenship to some of the 11 million people in this country without legal documentation. The fact that these people are here and living scared in the shadows of American life is an injustice and it must be dealt with. But the Senate has failed both in its endeavor to find an assured, reasonable path to citizenship, and also in coming up with a bill that is fair to all people.
The danger of doing nothing for so long is that doing anything seems like a victory. But make no mistake: Trading one injustice for another is not justice.
Krista Schlyer is the author of “Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall.” She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune.