In a move that could have dire consequences for the environment, the expiration of Title 42, a policy implemented during the Trump administration to streamline the expulsion of migrants, is set to unleash a wave of illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Experts warn that this surge in migration could wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems, especially in federal and state wildlife refuges.
According to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, the immediate aftermath of Title 42’s expiration could result in a landscape marred by trash and environmental damage.
Krikorian recalls witnessing the devastation caused by smugglers driving vehicles over the border, crushing centuries-old saguaro cactuses. He recounts joining a trash collection team in Arizona’s Tohono O’odham reservation, where garbage was strewn everywhere.
The federally-managed lands along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, including national wildlife refuges, national monuments, and national forests, account for about 40% of the border area.
These areas, 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, could bear the brunt of the environmental impact.
Mitch Ellis, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Natural Resources, testified about the challenges faced by federally-managed wildlife zones.
Remote areas have become attractive to smugglers, undocumented migrants, and other illegal border crossers. The situation leaves land managers with little choice but to prioritize border issues over the conservation of natural resources.
The consequences of illegal border crossings extend beyond trash accumulation. Hundreds of tons of trash and abandoned vehicles are left behind each year, contributing to illegal roads, human waste, and wildfires on federal lands.
In Arizona alone, an astonishing 2,000 tons of trash are discarded annually along the borderlands. The magnitude of border crossings has necessitated special programs to handle waste collection, water quality protection, and air quality protection.
Jeremy Beck, the vice president of NumbersUSA, points out that smuggling routes often pass through national parks, leaving behind ecological damage. Despite the good intentions of some groups that provide water bottles along the smuggling routes, the discarded items and trampled ecosystems only add to the environmental degradation.
Illegal marijuana cultivation is another problem plaguing federal lands along the southern border. The cleanup of these sites, which involve graded dirt, trash, propane tanks, toxic chemicals, human waste, garbage, rat poison, and rotting food scraps, is a burdensome and costly process. Taxpayers foot the bill of approximately $40,000 for each cleanup operation.
Chairman Bruce Westerman of the House Natural Resources Committee emphasizes the urgency of addressing these issues. With nearly 40% of the southern border running through federal lands, America’s sensitive habitats and wildlife populations are at risk. He calls for immediate action to secure the border, allocate sufficient resources to agencies, and protect the vast stretches of federal land.
Experts also warn that increased migration will contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions in the long term. Economic migrants come to America seeking a better life, but their arrival leads to increased consumption and its environmental consequences.
As the expiration of Title 42 looms, it is crucial to recognize the potential environmental threats that lie ahead. The Biden administration must take decisive action to secure the border, preserve our natural resources, and safeguard the future of our nation’s environment.
Source Fox News