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border communities. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez added wording to a Homeland Security appropriations bill requiring the agency to consult with folks about plans for the fence. The agency’s response was to outsource the jobin this case, to E2M, a Colorado company. E2M asked border residents to submit their questions and complaints in writing to a stenographer. They have received no responses. Tamez, long since tired of waiting, sued Homeland Security last February over the plan to run the fence through the center of her land. Tamez filed a motion for formal discovery in federal court in Brownsville to force the agency to explain how the value of her property is being assessed and what DHS plans to do with her land. Among other things that DHS hasn’t made clear to property owners like Tamez is whether there will be entryways to access their properties on the other side of the fence. Nor do they know whether the fence on their land will have cameras or other surveillance devices, which could be an invasion of their privacy. Unlike most complainants, Tamez has been granted a jury trial, scheduled for June. “We’re really lucky here, because we have a judge who really values and follows the Constitution,” she says. Her lawsuit seeks fair market value for her land, claiming this right under the U.S. Constitution. \(Most property owners have been awarded far less than market value by fence-building long enough for the Obama administration to halt the construction. Along with property owners, environmental and wildlifeconservation organizations have also been battling the DHS in court, but with little success. The nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last March, arguing that the Homeland Security secretary’s authority to waive laws to build the border wall violates the constitution’s separation of powers. In June, the court rejected the petitions without explanation. The results of Homeland Security’s sweeping powers were all too vivid when Noah Kahn, a federal lands associate with Defenders of Wildlife, recently went to see some of the border fence under construction just east of McAllen. The steel and concrete fence is being built on a federally owned tract of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. “Mud and fill were being dumped in the wetlands:’ Kahn says. “Palm trees and native hardwoods were covered in mud. A silt fence had been installed, but it was clearly too little, too late.” Kahn sees the damage as directly related to Homeland Security’s ability to ignore legal restrictions. “When you disregard environmental laws, it leads to real adverse impacts:’ he says. “It’s not just an academic argument.” So far, the new Homeland Security regime has provided few clues about how it will reinvent the departmentor overhaul the waste-laden SBInet project. During her six years as Arizona governor, Napolitano managed to anger groups on both sides of the immigration debate. She was the first governor to call for National Guard troops to patrol the border, pleasing the right wing. She supported drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, angering conservatives. COMMENTARY! BY JIM HIGHTOWER More Boldly Go When Franklin Roosevelt was accused of being a traitor to his privileged class, he jauntily replied: “I welcome their hatred.” He would feel right at home today, since FDR-haters are on the prowl again, led by right-wing think tanks and talk-show yakkers busy belittling the achievements of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Their real target is Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan, which is partly modeled on the New Deal approach of government spending for roads, schools, parks, conservation and other public works, putting millions of people to work on jobs that need doing. The official naysayer line was laid down last fall by the far-right-wing Heritage Foundation, which asserts that the New Deal was a failure. Fox News pundit Monica Crowley, blathered that the failure is proven by “all kinds of studies.” Her Fox colleague Gregg Jarrett dutifully echoed her insight by saying, “I think historians pretty much agree on that.” Uh … no, they don’t. Indeed, they pretty much agree that millions of families were saved by the New Deal’s public works programs, and that many millions more continue to benefit from the work those people produced. The chief shortcoming of FDR’s public-spending approach is that he didn’t do enough of it. After winning re-election in 1936, largely based on the popularity of his New Deal, Roosevelt gave in to Wall Street interests who demanded cuts in federal spending. The result was a relapse into recession in 1937, a return to double-digit unemployment, and a rejection of Democrats in the 1938 congressional elections. Now is no time for timid steps. The challenge for Obama is to be even bolder than FDR. Napolitano’s early actions at Homeland Security have hardly done more to indicate a clear direction beyond assessing the damage already done. Her first directives to the staff involved gathering information and reviewing programs and strategies inherited from the Bush years. Urging the staff to create a “more effective and efficient department” is about as specific as she’s gotten so far. But like others who battled the old department and lost, Kahn sees reasons for hope, noting that Napolitano “has made the comment that DHS is still a new agency and there is still an opportunity to shape it. I think she will make the agency more transparent and more responsive.” All of which is well and good, Tamez says. But she won’t rest until Napolitano stops the bulldozers. “I’m just really angry,” she says. “It’s aggravating and appalling that the executive branch continues to persecute us. They have tried in every way to keep us from having justice served.” FEBRUARY 6, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13