Judge Rejects Greens' Bid to Halt Border Fence
Byline: Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A federal judge in the District threw out a bid by two prominent environmental groups to halt construction of a portion of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona that they say would harm the wildlife.
Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club sued to stop the fence's construction in San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which the groups describe as "one of the most biologically diverse areas of the United States."
In addition to suing the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies, the groups also argued that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff improperly waived various environmental rules to speed the fence's construction.
In a decision late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle upheld Mr. Chertoff's decision and dismissed the groups' complaint.
"The construction of the border fence pertains to both foreign affairs and immigration control - areas over which the executive branch traditionally exercises independent constitutional authority," the judge wrote in a 17-page opinion.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Chertoff yesterday said he has used the waiver three times to speed construction of the fence in the interests of national security.
"Any delay would present a risk to national security," spokeswoman Veronica Vales said yesterday.
She also said thousands of illegal aliens have entered the U.S. through the San Pedro conservation area. Among the thousands caught entering the country in the area, more than 10 percent were found to have criminal records, she said.
However, the environmental groups argued in court papers the fence would "irreparably harm wildlife."
"Because the biological integrity of the wildlife populations in this region relies on genetic interchange, construction of border fencing and roads presents serious threats to long-term survival of wildlife on the border," attorneys for the groups argued in an amended complaint filed in October. …