200 miles of border wall have been constructed, but environmentalists say it’s nothing to celebrate.
As President Donald Trump plans to visit Arizona on Tuesday to celebrate construction of the 200th miles of border wall, environmentalists are lamenting its lasting damages.
“I think it’s something that all Arizonans should be mourning, rather than celebrating,” Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Copper Courier.
Jordahl has been documenting environmental damage resulting from the construction, including plants being ripped up and mountains blasted through.
“Especially to us as Arizonans, we’ve seen hundreds of our sacred Saguaro cacti just be butchered by this administration without a thought,” he said. “I mean, it really does feel like an attack on Arizona and our beautiful borderlands desert.”
The wall will also disrupt some animals’ migration patterns, with the potential to affect any animal larger than a jackrabbit that can’t fly. Jordahl said this could change the outcome of a species’s survival.
“Basically we’re about to watch all of the most critical jaguar corridors be sealed off,” he said. “And if these walls are built, that will be the end of jaguar recovery in the United States.”
Jorshal said the most “devastating” part of all this is that it’s impossible to know the extent of the damage because the government has chosen not to complete archaeological surveys before building. And even if the wall were to come down in the future, the environment wouldn’t be immediately restored.
“The degree of damage that’s been inflicted on our desert, it will take generations to recover,” he said. “Even after we rip these senseless border walls down, there will still be a scar on this desert.”
Still Building Through Pandemic
Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration hasn’t held back on continuing border wall construction. In fact, Jordahl said his group has seen the building speed up in an effort to complete more than 400 miles by early next year.
While certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protections have been rolled back during the pandemic, Jordahl said efforts to allow the border wall to skirt the rules happened long before.
“Even before the pandemic, the administration had waived every single relevant environment and cultural resource protection law to rush wall construction,” he said. “So … the border was already not subject to these rules and regulations.”
But the project isn’t immune to the virus. The New York Times reported two border wall workers in the Arizona town of Ajo recently tested positive for COVID-19.
Jordahl said this is worrisome because the 4,000 border workers currently deployed often live in close quarters and shop in small border communities where there aren’t many resources. Ajo itself has only one supermarket and no hospital.
Chuck Huckelberry, the administrator of Pima County, noted that many of the people living in these communities are older and at elevated risk for the disease. “A lot of them are retired and probably a lot of them are vulnerable,” he told The Times.
One resident expressed frustration that the construction would continue while people are still at risk. “It infuriates me that our health is worth less to the federal government than Trump’s wall,” Ajo resident Maria Singleton said.
And to Jordahl, it doesn’t make sense to continue putting millions of dollars into a wall when there is a “raging” pandemic happening.
“It’s deeply concerning that rather than using all of these resources to fight the virus and to save lives, the administration’s pumping them into a border wall that will do nothing to keep communities safer,” he said.