Commentary: The Southwest Environmental Center strongly condemns the Trump administration’s rush to build new border walls in New Mexico, Arizona and California under the pretense of a national emergency while ignoring the concerns and rights of border communities and wildlife. The Department of Homeland Security announced plans in the past few days to build 78 miles of new border walls in Arizona and California, adding to its plans to construct 57 miles of new bollard border walls in New Mexico and Arizona announced last month.
Message from Amanda Munro, SWEC Communications Director:
“Our communities, our rights, our public lands, and our wildlife are being steamrolled in this mad rush to construct useless and damaging border walls. In the process, DHS is ignoring the bedrock cultural, environmental, and public health laws that apply to the rest of the country, like the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and American Indian Religious Freedom Act,” said Amanda Munro, Communications Director for the Southwest Environmental Center. “As these walls go up, we get the message over and over again that our voices and opinions don’t matter, that these walls are going up in the blink of an eye whether we want them or not, and there’s nothing we can do or say about it. It is disempowering to say the least.”
The 63 miles planned for Arizona will cut through important wildlife habitat like the San Pedro River, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge with a complete disregard for the impact this will have on local wildlife and people.
Since the national emergency declaration earlier this year, the Trump administration has been moving full speed ahead on border wall construction in New Mexico, Arizona, and California using funds stolen from the Department of Defense. While a preliminary injunction is still pending on the first 57 miles planned for New Mexico and Arizona, contracts have already been awarded and bedrock laws waived in the middle of a disingenuous public comment period. The day after that comment period ended, new wall plans were announced for Arizona and California. Today, the Department of Defenseannounced plans to transfer another $1.5 billion from military funds to border wall construction.
Back in March, a memorandum from Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense revealed DHS’ priorities for 11 locations for new 213 miles of new border wall construction. DHS is quickly making its way through this list, and has announced plans to construct seven of those eleven priorities, a total of 135 miles.
So far, contracts have been awarded to SLSCO and Barnard Construction companies for the first 57 miles. SLSCO Ltd. has been awarded over $1.6 billion in border wall contracts since 2018. Barnard Construction has been awarded $584 million in border wall contracts during the same time period. Both company founders have made significant contributions to Republican campaigns.
Most of the construction proposed will replace existing 4 to 5 foot vehicle barriers that allow for the passage of water and wildlife with 18 to 30 foot steel bollard walls. These walls will block the passage of any animal larger than a jackrabbit, and will also block water and cause flooding during heavy storms. Read more here.