Real ID Waiver Authority Compromises Our Borderlands
The unprecedented power granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) by Section 102 of the Real ID Act has been used multiple times to "waive in their entirety" dozens of federal laws. Although the Secretary of DHS is an unelected appointee, with the stroke of a pen one individual has the ability to dismiss decades of protective laws passed by Congress and signed by presidents, all to circumvent local, state, and federal laws when constructing border walls. The waiver provision of the Real ID Act is a grave threat to the checks and balances within the United States Constitution. Furthermore, continuing to allow this type of precedent to stand is a threat to environmental protection across the country, not only on the border.
Federal laws waived by DHS for construction of border wall include:
The Threat of Real ID:
Unprecedented power for a political appointee: the REAL ID Act waiver
Tearing through parks and refuges, the border wall is causing enormous environmental destruction. Normally, local, state, and federal laws would protect endangered species, ensure clean air and water, and allow local communities a say in new federal projects. But in 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which included an unprecedented provision that allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all local, state and federal laws that the secretary deems an impediment to building walls and roads along U.S. borders.
Thanks to the REAL ID Act, DHS is now operating above the law, with zero accountability to those on the ground who have been working together for years to protect the diversity of life along the U.S.-Mexico border and to develop sensible solutions to border security. The REAL ID Act was passed as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief.
DHS secretaries during the George W. Bush and Donald Trump Administrations have used the waiver in all four U.S. states along the U.S.-Mexico border to override important environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
This unprecedented power must not be allowed to remain on the books. No one individual should be allowed to single-handedly brush aside local, state, or federal laws.
UPDATES AND LINKS:
Click the link below for more information on the waivers of law published April 24, 2019 in the Federal Register for new and replacement border wall projects in New Mexico and Arizona:
For maps and lists of laws waived, see Ohio State University Professor Ken Madsen's resources posted here:
This report by the Friends of the Sonoran Desert discusses the significance of each of the 48 laws waived by the Bush and Trump Administrations.