Staff editorial: Chertoff’s environmental claims mix fantasy, reality
While defending the construction of a fence in the southwest border, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made some comments that most likely exacerbated the hot-button topic of immigration when he claimed that illegal immigrants pose far more harm to the environment than a proposed border fence.
In the end, however, the 670 mile-long wall will be more detrimental to the local environment in that region.
"Illegal migrants really degrade the environment. I’ve seen pictures of human waste, garbage, discarded bottles and other human artifact in pristine areas," Chertoff told the Associated Press. "And believe me, that is the worst thing you can do to the environment."
The fence, which is slated for completion by the end of 2008, has raised numerous concerns already, such as severely hindering the economy on both sides of the fence, not to mention the environmental repercussions of building this barricade.
Environmentalists say that the fence will only damage the ecosystem and cut animals off from a fresh water supply. But it’s still disconcerting for a top government official to compare immigrants to pollutants.
Chertoff’s concerns with the environment are short-sighted at best. The 16-foot steel wall will slice into different areas of the river life along the Rio Grande.
The problem of illegal immigration is a serious one and should not be taken lightly. Such uninformed comments only make this delicate situation much worse to handle, and few discerning readers would qualify the environmental damage caused by illegal migrants as "the worst thing" possible.
Thus Chertoff’s dismissal of critics by citing trash left by migrants is downright perplexing. While damage is certainly done by border crossers, it makes one wonder what the government has done to stem the tide of oxygen bottles piling up on Mount McKinley, of cigarette butts dotting federal highways and of U.S. industries that do not adhere to the Kyoto Protocol.
While these environmental offenses fall outside the jurisdiction of Chertoff’s office, the fact that they continue unabated makes one wonder if Chertoff was trying to create a red herring.