A TASTE OF VICTORY: Texas Congressman’s Bill Language Prevents Border Barrier Construction at Butterfly Center

In the Visitor's Center at the National Butterfly Center there is a likeness of the border "wall" (more of a fence) that has the theme "Checkpoint Carlos," a reference to Checkpoint Charlie from the wall that divided Germany during the Cold War. (Awakening News photo)

By M. Samuel Anderson
Awakening News Editor

Things have taken a sharp turn at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, thanks to a member of the U.S. Congress.

Pivotal language in the legislation that prevented a second federal government shutdown evidently has saved the Center, which is widely regarded as an irreplaceable haven for wildlife that’s critically important to the food chain and the overall ecosystem—especially pollinators like butterflies and bees. President Donald Trump signed the “compromise” legislation on Feb. 15th.

As a result, the National Butterfly Center and four other landmark locations in Texas, will be spared construction of new sections of border fencing after all—representing a major victory for the Butterfly Center—which made scores of headlines over the last few weeks regarding what had appeared to be an imminent effort on the part of the U.S. federal government to bulldoze some 70 acres of vegetation in the 100-acre Center’s rear section. The vegetation there serves as a habitat for migratory butterflies.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) came to the rescue by adding language to the compromise bill to protect the Butterfly Center and the four other places from having border-barrier sections erected on their properties. Those other places are:

  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park next door to the Butterfly Center, an internationally recognized park for bird-watching;
  • The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which was exempted from border barriers in last year’s budget;
  • The historic Catholic chapel La Lomita, which recently lost in court when it sought to prevent the government from surveying the chapel’s land; and . . .
  • Land near Brownsville that will soon be home to the Space X commercial spaceport.

On Feb. 14, according to the Texas Tribune, “The House and Senate approved [the] 1,159-page spending package . . . . It includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley—far less than the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump demanded when he refused to sign an earlier bill and triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown.”

Yet, while a second shutdown was averted, President Trump, as expected, did declare a national emergency regarding the border, over what he says are clear and present threats to national security posed by drug cartel members, MS-13 gang members and other elements mixing in with and often exploiting asylum-seekers.

Amid the political turmoil, the New York Times explained that Trump actually got more than $5.7 billion, not less, as follows: “The border emergency declaration . . .  enables Mr. Trump to divert $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction projects to the border wall, White House officials said. [He] will also use more traditional presidential budgetary discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counter-narcotics programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. Combined with the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in [the] spending package passed by Congress, Mr. Trump would then have about $8 billion in all to advance construction of new barriers and repairs or replacement of existing barriers along the border this year . . .”

However, it appears that Rep. Cuellar skillfully prevented an already controversial project from going way too far. Perhaps his move will inspire more thoughtful consideration of other sensitive areas eyed for wall construction within and beyond Texas.

Meanwhile, the restraining order issued by lawyers for the Butterfly Center in mid-February— in an attempt to prevent the federal government from building planned barrier sections on the Center’s property—was dismissed almost immediately by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, according to national news sources.

Judge Leon ruled that the Center’s claims that the government violated its Fourth Amendment rights by entering the sanctuary without consent does not apply in this case, because that amendment “offers little refuge for unenclosed land near one of the country’s external borders.” The judge added that “no factual allegations suggest that defendant entered or searched without consent any physical structures on the Center’s property,” the Hill, a newspaper in Washington which focuses on Congress, noted.

“Leon additionally rejected . . . claims [of the National Butterfly Association, or NABA, representing the Butterfly Center) that the government violated its 5th Amendment due-process rights. The ruling came more than a year after NABA had first filed suit against the government over plans for a border wall,” the Hill also noted.