LatinaLista — Things are heating up along the South Texas border and it’s not because it’s spring.
Ever since Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that his department was intent on seeing a physical barrier built along the Texas-Mexico border within a given time frame, he’s encountered one barrier after another in trying to get people to see things his way.
Residents have been taking to the streets on a weekly basis to protest the federal government’s insistence that a physical barrier is what is needed to keep the country safe.
The latest group is the region’s school officials.
From college presidents to school superintendents, officials are facing the government in federal courts and giving a failing grade to the border fence.
And while school is in session in the federal courts of South Texas, another group took a petition to another court â€” the Supreme Court â€” to clarify once and for all Is Chertoff Above the Law?
Yesterday, the U.S. government dismissed their border fence condemnation lawsuit against the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB-TSC).
In return, the government is granted access to the campus for six months for surveying purposes but has to promise to explore alternatives “to a physical barrier” with the university and has to get permission from the school before they touch even one blade of grass on the campus.
Opponents to the wall see this as a major inroad because it is forcing the government to observe the laws that stipulate the government must interact in a meaningful dialogue with landowners before taking possession of their land.
In another school related intstance, Rio Grande City CISD Superintendent Roel Gonzalez took the witness stand to explain why his school district would not allow border agents on their campus to survey where a fence would go.
Gonzalez told the judge he was protecting his kids. However, the judge shot back that the fence “will make the children more secure.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Gonzalez said he did not buy that argument.
â€œWe are kids business and if the fence is built I have to explain to the children what that is all about,â€ Gonzalez said.
â€œMany of the children come from Mexico and 99 percent are Hispanic. They have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, living a mile away on the other side of where that fence will be. I understand the need for border security but it is really hard for me to explain to the children why there families are going to be fenced off.â€
The general consensus of those living along the US-Mexico border is that the Department of Homeland Security is on a fast-track to get the fence up before the current President leaves office.
Yet, it seems there may be one more barrier for Chertoff to overcome.
The Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club sent a petition to the Supreme Court asking them to clarify just how much power Chertoff has.
WASHINGTON â€“ Today, Defenders of Wildlife and The Sierra Club filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its argument that the REAL ID Act, which grants Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff unprecedented and sweeping authority to waive any and all laws to expedite the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, is unconstitutional besides being harmful to the environment and border communities. The two conservation groups charge that such unbounded authority to the executive branch is a violation of the Constitutionâ€™s separation of powers provisions.
â€œBy granting one government official the absolute power to pick and choose which laws apply to border wall construction, the REAL ID Act proves itself to be both inherently dangerous and profoundly un-American. The issue here is not security vs. wildlife, but whether wildlife, sensitive environmental values and communities along the border will be given fair consideration in the decisions the government makes,â€ said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. â€œWe are hopeful that the Supreme Court will take up this case in order to protect the fundamental separation of powers principles enshrined in the United States Constitutionâ€
What is clear from all these cases is that the principle of a democratic free country is working. Otherwise, we’d have in South Texas the same as what is happening in Tibet.
It is right for people to question the arbitrary authority one person and/or one department assumes over others without concern for people’s civil or human rights because, as we all learned in school, that’s not the American way â€” not even if it’s done in the name of national security.