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An open letter to Ron Barber regarding his first day on the job

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Consider the following as an open letter to newly elected U.S. Rep. Ron Barber.

Congratulations on your hard-fought victory, Ron. The many Arizonans who made the grassroots push that carried you over the top should be proud of a job well done. We owe you a debt of gratitude for standing against Jesse Kelly, a radical theocrat whose poisonous ideas presented a grave threat to our democracy.

You'd think people would be happy, but I've heard from an alarming number of your supporters that they are literally pulling up your yard signs, peeling your bumper stickers from their cars and asking for their money back.

After convincing a majority of the electorate that Jesse Kelly was too extreme for your swing district, you spent your first official day in Congress doing your best impression of Jesse Kelly.

Apparently, it was a baptism by hellfire. Within minutes of being sworn in, you were caught up in a legislative conflict that disingenuously pitted border security against the environment. Unfortunately, you somehow decided it was a good idea to waive 16 major environmental laws within 100 miles of U.S. borders, ostensibly to enhance border security.

For decades, these laws have protected our air, water, wildlife and the beautiful places that make Arizona special. They govern how our national parks and wildlife refuges are managed, and provide ways to ensure that the public interest is thoughtfully considered in bureaucratic decision-making. Right out of the gate, you threw all of that in the crapper.

Even more offensive than your vote was your public statement justifying it. You said that border security is the No. 1 priority of the people who live along the border, and that this bill would enhance border security.

Both elements of that statement are patently false. In poll after poll, Americans have indicated by overwhelming majorities that they are not interested in trading away environmental protections for border security. In fact, just a few months ago, a Colorado College poll found that 73 percent of Arizonans rejected the very bill you voted for, while only 22 percent supported it.

Moreover, Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials have testified to Congress that the bill was unnecessary and unwanted. They said that environmental laws do not hinder border enforcement at all, and that collaboration with land managers actually improves security while protecting the environment. Yet you voted to blow that collaboration out of the water.

I have no idea which Creature From the Beltway Lagoon convinced you that there would be some political benefit in casting such a foolish vote a mere two weeks after an environmental fundraiser that netted thousands of dollars and dozens of volunteers for your campaign, but, clearly, whoever did the convincing was wrong and should be ignored henceforth. (A quick piece of advice: Next time, schedule a bit more time between the fundraiser and the betrayal. It really was bad form, but I'm sure your D.C. handlers will educate you on the finer points of manipulating your base.)

The worst part is that all of this was absolutely unnecessary. Pew Research recently reported that net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero. Regardless of endless caterwauling by the racist Tea Party types and paranoid rednecks you seem to be courting, the Mexican invasion is over. The Mexicans won, but then they realized how completely chingado our country really is and started heading back to Mexico, in droves.

I fully understand that pandering to the lowest elements of our society is the way business is conducted in D.C., and that the national Democratic Party playbook is rife with strategies that involve acting like Republicans. But I must say, with all due disrespect, those schemers on the Hill do not have the slightest fucking clue what your district is really like.

People in the border region care about the same things as other Americans—the economy, health care, educating their kids and, yes, a healthy environment—and they deserve the same protections under the law that all other Americans enjoy. We didn't elect you to go to D.C. and become just another craven, conniving politician. What we had in mind was more of a "Mr. Barber Goes to Washington" scenario—you know, nice guy doesn't finish last, but instead carries some common sense and civility into the belly of the beast.

I fear now that the beast will chew you up and spit you out.

We don't need you to feed our nation's ignorance and hysteria with bullshit pronouncements on border security. We need leadership and a strong voice to educate your colleagues that it is not necessary to destroy our borderlands in order to save them.

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