The impending expiration of Title 42, a policy established during the Trump administration to streamline the expulsion of migrants, has sparked concerns about its environmental consequences along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Experts are sounding the alarm, warning that the termination of this policy could lead to a surge in illegal border crossings, potentially causing significant environmental degradation in federal and state wildlife refuges.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, underscores the immediate consequences of Title 42’s expiration. He recalls witnessing smugglers driving vehicles over the border, wreaking havoc on the landscape by demolishing centuries-old saguaro cactuses.
In Arizona’s Tohono O’odham reservation, Krikorian joined a trash collection team and was confronted with the overwhelming presence of garbage left behind by illegal border crossings.
Approximately 40% of the land along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border is federally managed, including national wildlife refuges, national monuments, and national forests such as the Cleveland National Forest in California, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona, and Big Bend National Park and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. These areas face the risk of environmental damage due to increased illegal crossings.
Mitch Ellis, former manager of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, testified about the challenges faced by federally-managed wildlife zones. Remote areas have become attractive for smugglers, undocumented migrants, and other illegal border crossers, diverting resources from the conservation of natural habitats.
Illegal border crossings not only contribute to trash accumulation but also leave abandoned vehicles, create illegal roads, result in human waste, and increase the risk of wildfires on federal lands. In Arizona alone, an astonishing 2,000 tons of trash are discarded annually along the borderlands.
To combat these environmental consequences, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have initiated specialized programs for waste collection, water quality protection, and air quality protection.
Jeremy Beck, Vice President of NumbersUSA, highlights the detrimental impact of smuggling routes on national parks.
Despite some groups’ well-intentioned efforts to provide water bottles along these routes, the resulting accumulation of discarded items and damage to sensitive ecosystems cannot be ignored.
Moreover, illegal marijuana cultivation poses a significant problem on federal lands along the southern border.
The cleanup of these sites, which contain graded dirt, trash, propane tanks, toxic chemicals, human waste, garbage, rat poison, and decaying food scraps, is both arduous and costly. Taxpayers bear the burden of approximately $40,000 for each cleanup operation.
Congressman Bruce Westerman, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, emphasizes the urgency of addressing these environmental challenges.
With almost 40% of the southern border encompassing federally-managed lands, protecting America’s delicate habitats and wildlife populations is crucial. Immediate action is needed to secure the border, allocate sufficient resources to relevant agencies, and preserve the vast stretches of federal land.
Experts also predict that increased migration will contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions in the long term.
While economic migrants come seeking better opportunities, their arrival leads to increased consumption, resulting in significant environmental impacts.
As the expiration of Title 42 approaches, it is essential to acknowledge the potential environmental risks ahead. The Biden administration must take decisive action to secure the border, protect natural resources, and ensure a sustainable future for the U.S.-Mexico border region.
Source Fox News