For more than two decades, the United States has stubbornly pursued a path to failure in our borderlands: militarize and build walls. These walls are ineffective, costly, and harmful to people and the environment. Construction of border walls has not curbed migration but has cost taxpayers millions of dollars per mile to construct and maintain.
Today, barriers and walls cover more than 650 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Walls cause flooding, destroy habitat, disturb historic and cultural sites, and block migration corridors necessary for the survival of wildlife. Former President George W. Bush disregarded the rule of law in constructing the border wall, using an obscure provision of the Real ID Act to waive federal laws along the border. Many of the walls, roads, and military infrastructure harming our borderlands were imposed without regard for environmental protection or public health and safety.
Border walls and barriers harm American wild lands, including wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and national forest lands, among others. Studies show that, while people are clever and go over, under or around the walls, wildlife and natural water flows are stopped dead in their tracks.
The border wall has also had devastating consequences for communities along the border. In Nogales, Sonora the wall contributed to severe flooding that buried downtown homes and businesses underneath six feet of water, drowning two people and costing millions of dollars in damages. Condemnation proceedings against border municipalities and landowners in Texas led to a wall that blocks people and animals from access to the Rio Grande River. Thousands of migrants have lost their lives as the border wall funnels them deeper and deeper into harsh and remote terrain.
The Sierra Club takes a strong stance against policies that promote environmental degradation. We are seeking to restore and protect the borderlands that have been damaged by failed border policies. Along with allies in Congress, we are seeking the reinstatement of the rule of law, so that borderlands resources and residents can depend on the same protections, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, that most Americans take for granted.
It is clear that undocumented immigration is not a problem that can be solved at the border. Without a comprehensive effort to address the root causes of immigration, migrants will continue risking their lives to cross the borderlands. Wildlife and wildlands found along the border will continue to suffer the impacts of border walls and militarization.
For these and other reasons, the Sierra Club supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a just and equitable path to citizenship for residents of the United States who lack official documentation. America's undocumented population should be able to earn legalization and all the rights to fully participate in our democracy.