By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
Article Launched: 04/09/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT
Video: Times/Channel 9-KTSM newscast
AUSTIN -- U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes will join more than a dozen other congressmen in filing a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court later this month challenging federal officials' plans to bypass about 30 laws so they can quickly build the border fence.
"The Department of Homeland Security's decision to issue waivers to expedite the construction of a wasteful fence along the Southwest border is disappointing at best," Reyes said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.
Reyes, D-Texas, and 13 others plan to submit a brief in a challenge the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife filed last month against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. They are asking the court to rule unconstitutional the law that gave Chertoff authority to circumvent other laws to get the fence built. "We don't think that anyone is above the law," said Oliver Bernstein, a Sierra Club spokesman.
Chertoff announced last week that he would use two waivers to avoid legal and environmental challenges that could impede construction of 670 miles of fence by the end of this year.
factors and community concerns, he said, would continue to be accounted for, but construction must proceed to deter border crime and potential terrorism.
"Congress and the American public have been adamant that they want and expect border security," Chertoff said.
Critics of the fence worry not only about the political message it sends to Mexico but also about possible environmental damage.
Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife asked the Su preme Court to consider their challenge to Chertoff's use of waiver authority for fencing in Arizona's San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
The organizations argue that the law granting Chertoff waiver authority violates the constitutional separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.
The court is expected to decide in the next couple of months whether to hear the case, Bernstein said.
Reyes said Chertoff's expansive use of waivers disrespects Congress and ignores border residents' concerns.
"I know the importance of securing our borders É ," Reyes said. "I do not, however, support DHS's continued disregard for border communities."
Frank Rodriguez, who lives in far East El Paso, said he supports the fence because it could deter illegal immigration, drug-related violence and terrorism.
"The fence will not hold (back) all of it," he said, "but I think it will protect lives."
Brandi Grissom may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 512-479-6606.
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Submitted by EGH in El Paso.