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Arizona Govenor Janet Napolitano is moving to Washington to become head of the Homeland Security Department in the Obama administration, and I sure hope she’s bringing a load of two things this humongous agency totally lacks: common sense and common decency.
Homeland Security is in charge of building the ridiculous and absurdly expensive 40-foot-high wall that our government is erecting along the U.S. border with Mexico. The very idea of this divisive wall is offensive to the people who live in U.S. border towns, but the insufferable arrogance of the agency has made the wall’s offensiveness explosive.
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The Department’s charm was on glaring display just before Christmas, when it sued the Nature Conservancy to condemn land near Brownsville, Texas, for the project. The Conservancy owns and runs a unique 1,000-acre preserve along the Rio Grande, and the federal wall builders wanted to take a 60-foot wide strip from the preserve – amounting to about eight acres.
Why fuss over eight acres? Well, you’d assume that the wall would be going up on the actual border, but no. They want to build this section a mile-and-a-half from the border, thus putting thee-fourths of the preserve in a no-man’s land between the wall and Mexico. The most critical part of the wildlife habitat, and even the home of the preserve’s manager, would be cut off by the wall, effectively destroying the park, which is home to two kinds of endangered wildcats and a rare palm forest.
A decade ago, the Conservancy paid $2.6 million to buy this gem, yet Homeland Security now insists that it should pay only $114,000 as “fair compensation” for the 60-foot stretch it intends to take from the center of the preserve. It’s this kind of swaggering lunacy that has made the agency so beloved. Good luck to Janet Napolitano.
“DHS seeks to condemn nature preserve land,” www.chron.com, December 29, 2008.
“Southmost Preserve Threatened by Border Fence,” www.nature.org, December 31, 2008.