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The Trump Administration has begun blasting through a Native American cultural site called Monument Hill in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona “in preparation for new border wall system construction within the Roosevelt Reservation,” USA Today reported on Friday. And Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district contains the reservation and shares 400 miles of border with Mexico, told CBS News that the Administration had begun the construction without any consultation with the Tribe about the impact it would have on this sacred burial site.
Why This Matters:Congressman Grijalva said it best. “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history — and to put it poignantly, it’s ancestry.” It is, sadly, an all too familiar pattern of disrespecting Native American culture — last week it was oil and gas drilling and other destructive development in former national monument areas they shrunk, and now it’s the border wall. Not to mention that the area has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in order to conserve its unique and precious ecosystem. And it goes without saying that once these areas are permanently desecrated — you can’t “repair” them and you can’t undo the damage to the ancestors of those Americans whose families had been laid to rest there. This is truly shameful. To use our national security laws to destroy native burial grounds without warning or due process is a new low.
Why Can They Do It?
A little known law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks called the REAL ID Act of 2005 gives the federal government the nearly unchallengeable right to waive other laws IF they are harming our national security. Using the REAL ID law authority, the Trump administration has gone beyond its intended scope and has waived dozens of laws including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act in order to construct the border wall. CBS reported that construction of this segment of the border wall has been expedited in Arizona due to an abundance of public land on which to build it, as contrasted to Texas where the border wall must be built on private land, which is harder to acquire. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement, “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”
Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Smoky Mountains National Parks closed on Tuesday due to coronavirus concerns, joining Yosemite National Park, the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island because of concerns of crowding in public spaces leading to spread of the disease.
Why This Matters: As is true with so much of the Trump Administration’s attitude toward containing the spread of the virus, they have left each Park to decide on its own, causing confusion and sending mixed signals to the public and leaving local officials struggling to respond.
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