Always looking for ways to score points with his hero Donald Trump, freshman representative Madison Cawthorn has introduced legislation called the “Donument Act” to create a sweeping national monument at the wall along the US-Mexico border.
“Think ‘Donald’ + ‘Monument,’” a spokesperson for Cawthorn told E&E News, which first reported on the legislation.
The land shrine to Trump’s harsh, nativist immigration policies would be dubbed the “Southern Border Wall National Monument.” The bill would designate the physical wall and nearby lands — nearly 300,000 acres in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — as a monument and “protect [them] from alteration,” according to the legislation.
In a statement announcing the bill, Cawthorn praised Trump’s efforts to make a secure southern border a “tangible reality” and slammed US President Joe Biden for his early executive order halting wall construction.
“I will make every effort to protect and secure the southern border, and advance an America First agenda,” Cawthorn said. “If Biden refuses to finish the wall, you can be sure that American patriots will do everything in their power to protect it.”
The measure, which has almost zero chance of being approved by a Democratically controlled Congress, highlights how unserious Cawthorn is about legislating. As he told GOP colleagues in a January email obtained by Time, “I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation.”
It is also a rather perplexing move, given the Republican Party’s fierce opposition to large-scale national monuments.
During his tenure, Trump dismantled or desecrated four federally protected land and water sites with significant cultural, archeological and natural resources. He carved more than 2 million acres from a pair of national monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante ― in December 2017, arguing that their establishment and size were an “egregious abuse of federal power.” And to make way for the border wall, the Trump administration bulldozed and blew up Indigenous cultural and burial sites within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Republicans have increasingly attacked Biden’s immigration policies, blaming him for the recent surge in migrants at the southern border. And after remaining silent about the significant environmental impacts of wall construction, many have parroted the Trump administration line that the border wall would not only reduce the number of undocumented migrants but actually protect the environment.
“For all of those that are concerned about the environment, we have an environmental crisis because the migrants are running across the border, they’re trampling through the ecosystem,” senator Marsha Blackburn said in an interview earlier this month.
And this week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the Biden administration over its decision to stop wall construction, arguing that doing so violates the National Environmental Policy Act and is “having a devastating impact on the environment.”
It was the Trump administration that waived numerous environmental laws and drastically altered the borderlands in its rush to build the wall. Thousands of scientists have warned that the barrier has and will continue to be disastrous for the environment and wildlife.
Cawthorn’s “Donument Act,” however, seeks not to protect the lands, species and resources along the southern border, but the physical steel structure itself.