Energy & Environment

Tribe clashes with Zinke on need for Mexican border wall


A Native American tribal leader whose territory straddles the Arizona-Mexico border is criticizing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke 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.” 

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.

{mosads}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 Bishop (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.

Tags Border Border Patrol Interior Department Rob Bishop Ryan Zinke Tribe wall

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