A Native American tribal leader whose territory straddles the Arizona-Mexico border is criticizing Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' MORE for his suggestion that building a wall would increase security, saying it would have "substantial negative impacts."
The chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation said in a letter to Zinke on Saturday that the tribe opposes a "fortified" wall, adding that the tribe has enacted dozens of resolutions against it.
"It is equally clear to us that construction of a wall simply will not further the objective of security the border," Edward Manuel, the tribe's chairman wrote. "Accordingly, the construction of a wall along the Nation's border will waste taxpayer money that would be much better spent on more effective safety measures."
Tohono O'odham Chairman's message to @SecretaryZinke: "A fortified wall will have substantial negative impacts on the O'odham way of life... It is our firm belief that a wall is not the answer to improving border security" #NoBorderWall pic.twitter.com/6QIxgw0NBO— Laiken Jordahl (@LaikenJordahl) March 19, 2018
The comments followed Zinke's visit to the Arizona border on Saturday. While there, he tweeted a number of photos thanking Border Patrol agents, as well as one that called his meeting with Manuel "productive" and said the two had a shared interest in building a wall.
Had a very productive visit w/Chair & tribal leaders from Tohono O’odham Nation. We have a shared interest that our borders & families are secure. In the words of the Chair of Domestic Affairs cte: “Safety is number 1.” Agree! Look forward to working together to achieve that. pic.twitter.com/sYpOEllpnP— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) March 18, 2018
Zinke's visit comes as some Republicans have raised concerns that current restrictions on public lands around the U.S. border prevent agents from necessary access. Critics argue instead that current laws allow Department of Homeland Security rights to protect all federal land.
In February, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the security and environmental impacts of granting the U.S. Border Patrol more access to federal lands.
The oversight hearing, entitled "The Costs of Denying Border Patrol Access: Our Environment and Security," comes a week after the committee's chairman, Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), toured the U.S.-Mexico border with Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).
"Last weekend, Chairman Bishop & @RepWesterman toured the Southern border. It's unacceptable that Border Patrol agents cannot access federal lands to do their jobs. #BuildTheWall," the committee tweeted.