In total, the waivers apply to 470 miles of land in a stretch of area from California through Texas. In making the waivers, Chertoff is striving to meet a deadline by the end of the year to survey and build nearly 700 miles of fencing. Three hundred and nine miles of fencing have already been built.
NAGPRA's waiver is but one of several recent DHS moves that are impacting Native peoples. Several Apache landowners on the Rio Grande in January asked DHS to halt the seizure of their lands for the U.S.-Mexico border. The department has declared that it is using the principle of eminent domain to survey and possibly ultimately take possession of land. DHS is currently suing the landowners so that building of the fence can proceed.
Despite the lawsuits, Keehner said that DHS is not trying to be insensitive. She even suggested that the building of the fence could be beneficial for Indians.
"Quite frankly, Indian country is incredibly [affected] by drugs coming into communities," Keehner said. "Building this fence is another way that helps our efforts in keeping out drug dealers, drugs and human smuggling--so it's really better for the entire homeland."
Although legislators who support border control are happy with Chertoff's decision-making, some lawmakers are already questioning the need for blanket waivers.
"I favor building barriers along the border where border patrol agents think they will help them do their job," Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement. "In fact, I have helped secure millions of dollars for vehicle barriers in New Mexico. But I have not yet heard any justification for why the Bush administration cannot abide by current laws in the construction of this fence."
I suspect the burden of this wall falls mainly on the poor and minorities. If so, that would make it a case of economic racism. Rather than pay to do it right, Americans are doing it on the cheap and making those who live on the border pay.