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Amid Virus Outbreak, New Mexico Organizations Ask Governor to Help Stop Border Wall “Man Camps”

Commentary: Dozens of portable buildings to house hundreds of out-of-state workers to build new sections of Trump’s border wall were delivered to the small border town of Columbus, N.M. These temporary housing units and the workers who accompany them pose a grave public health threat to this small border community amidst a worsening state public health crisis, defying the Governor’s stay-at-home order and federal recommendations for interstate travel and social distancing.

A group of New Mexico organizations sent a letter today to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, asking her to do everything within her authority to help stop the influx of out-of-state workers in an effort to keep New Mexicans safe. Copies of the letter were also sent to New Mexico’s federal delegation.


Angel Peña, president of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said:

“It is incredibly irresponsible for border wall work crews to continue working during a national health crisis. Border communities in New Mexico are often an afterthought in federal decision-making, but this action puts peoples’ lives at risk. It is reckless and intolerable. Not only should these workers go home immediately, the money being spent on the border wall should be repurposed to spend on the nation’s shortage of medical supplies, facemasks, and ventilators.” 


Johana Bencomo, executive director of New Mexico CAFe, said:

“This is not only infuriating, it’s offensive. This action by the Trump administration puts an-already vulnerable rural community in even more danger. Luna County already lacks the medical, testing, and healthcare resources to deal with the spread of COVID-19. By bringing in hundreds of out-of-state workers to perform non-essential construction work during the height of this crisis, the administration is showing its blatant disregard for New Mexico border communities. We urge the Governor to do everything she can to protect New Mexicans.” 


Ray Trejo, a Deming resident and southern New Mexico coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said:

“These workers are coming into my community and my county, with instructions to continue work at all costs. Those costs are the lives of my family, friends, and community. The state and our federal delegation must do everything they can to halt this construction work immediately. While we all do our best to stay at home and adhere to the Governor’s guidance, these individuals pose an uncontrollable threat to our community as they work side-by-side in close quarters and travel in and out of our city and patronize local businesses. They should be gone tomorrow.”

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The Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project is based in Las Cruces, N.M., and works to ensure that Frontera (border) communities have access to the outdoors and that our history, values, and people are reflected in land management decisions through education, advocacy and empowerment. More information can be found atnuestra-tierra.org.