Following Statewide Concerns, Columbus Mayor Closes Border Wall “Man Camps”
Commentary: Following public outcry from local residents and a letter sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham from a coalition of conservation, immigrant rights, and social justice organizations, Columbus Mayor Esequiel Salas has confirmed that SLS Co. has agreed to his request to break up the Columbus “man camps” and vacate the Village as early as Monday, April 13.
Last week, SLS Co., one of the Trump Administration’s border wall contractors began setting up dozens of portable buildings in the small border town of Columbus, a rural New Mexico community with limited healthcare resources and no access to local COVID-19 testing sites. The buildings were set to house dozens of out-of-state workers to build new sections of Trump’s border wall.
The close proximity of the workers, their daily travel, and their interaction with locals and local businesses sparked fears that the workers would start an uncontrollable COVID-19 epidemic in the small town.
This week, Nuestra Tierra worked with state and federal officials to ask for their support in closing down the camps. On Thursday, April 9, Mayor Salas confirmed to Nuestra Tierra that he had spoken with SLS officials and asked them to leave the Village, to which SLS has agreed.
Angel Peña, president of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said:
“We are grateful for Mayor Salas’ leadership and for keeping border residents safe. Now is not the time for this non-essential workforce to be traveling in and out of a small border town with limited healthcare resources. We know the Trump administration does not think highly of border communities, so we have to come together to protect ourselves. Border residents don’t want these workers today, and they don’t want the border wall tomorrow.”
Johana Bencomo, executive director of New Mexico CAFe, said:
“We are thankful for the Governor’s leadership as she works through this unprecedented crisis to keep New Mexicans safe. Every New Mexican, including border residents, should feel that their government is acting in the best interest of their health and safety. Now is not the time to build this unnecessary and useless wall, and we will keep doing everything we can to stop it.”
Ray Trejo, a Deming resident and southern New Mexico coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said:
“My family and my community are thankful for Mayor Salas’ actions. I’m especially thankful for Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, who expressed great concern and made direct communication with Mayor Salas to help close down the man camps. My fear now is that the contractor will simply relocate the man camp to nearby federal or private land, but still travel in and out of our communities on a daily basis. They should be gone for good.”
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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.