Saturday, September 30, 2023

Keep Your Promise, Joe Biden. Stop the Wall!

Halt Further Habitat and Community Destruction


The U.S./Mexico border must be protected by so many other means, especially surveillance technology, and a trained non-violent Border Patrol, not gigantic, ugly 30-to 40-ft-high steel pilings snaking across formerly beautiful desert, wetlands and mountain landscapes of the Southwest. Wall expenses far surpass the original budget with fresh endowments being stolen from reappropriated funds from our military under a national emergency declaration, when zero national emergency exists—another Trump lie. Also, it is wasteful of precious natural resources on lands that do not have extra resources. Groundwater is pumped from a narrowing, shallow aquifer that is vital to border landowners.

Our southern border hosts an unparalleled diversity of plant and animal species that only thrive in these special territories. Around the Bootheel, for example, such animals as whitetail deer, jaguars and Mexican gray wolves call this land home. The large and smaller animals are migratory in nature and must move across territory for populations to thrive. This is even true of rare plants that must migrate when climate change alters the areas in which they can reproduce and thrive. Some species have nowhere else to go and cannot move at the whim of invasive humans. The wall is devastating to these threatened and endangered wildlife species (93 of them), which cannot traverse across normal habitats when the wall blocks their passage. Even the tiniest frogs and slithering snakes wait and die at the wall because they cannot pass through as they did before humans encroached on their territories. We cannot expect populations to move past or fly over these unnatural obstacles along their paths. The problem of altered migratory patterns for millions of species adds to an extinction crisis that scientists see happening as populations are divided into smaller groups, increasing a risk of absolute disappearance over time. Wall and road construction pollutes the air with dust and debris from large transport vehicles and explosions of rock and soil as steep mountainsides are removed for roads and the wall.

The wall passes through mostly publicly owned national wildlife refuges and indigenous territory, scarring unique desert, wetland and mountain landscapes that scientists and conservationists fear could result in irreversible damage. Mounting complaints by reluctant landowners exist due to disruptions to terrain and many have been forced into “eminent domain” property sales when this land had been in their families for generations.

These landowners are oftentimes the Indigenous peoples who have called this landscape sacred ground over centuries. We as users of wild spaces are familiar with the Tohono O’odham culture after traveling through their homeland on occasion. During a University of New Mexico archeological presentation, the Indigenous speaker told tales of survival after white man’s resettlement practices. She related how landscapes had been transformed by white men's interfering inventions that failed to blend into their lifestyle.

According to a pie chart from an Albuquerque Journal poll last December, 53 percent (over half) of New Mexicans said they do not want the wall. Only 37 percent wanted it with 10 percent undecided.  The destruction of landscape, plant and animal habitat, water storage and Native lives started with a lie that Mexico was going to pay for this wall, without asking them if they wanted it. Mexico rightly refused to pay for the wall. Now, there are billions in cost overruns. This political tool was another story used by ex-President Trump to divide our own country’s people, and to prohibit our neighbors in Mexico from sharing their traditions and cultures.

Citizens of Palomas, Mexico, bordering Columbus, New Mexico, travel on foot daily across a bridge for business in the United States. They share mutual friendships with us before returning home after their business. Similarly, U.S. tourists cross into their town from Pancho Villa State Park. U.S. visitors feast on outstanding Mexican food at bargain prices, shop at the Pink Store, buy cheap pharmaceuticals and outstanding homemade cheese. Incidentally, Pancho Villa tried to invade the U.S. through Columbus prior to World War I. It’s a terrific history lesson for children to learn about century-old espionage and an attack of our country at the time.

Even though President Biden has halted the project upon his first day of office as he has stated, U.S. taxpayers will still have to compensate construction contractors who have already been assigned work zones and ordered work crews. All awarded but not yet completed border wall contracts should be canceled. We should withdraw any lawsuits for the greater good paid to landowners. Land that hasn't been built upon should be returned to the landowner. All of these costs will be worth the trouble when the wall is halted.

It won’t be easy to stop the costliest wall the world has ever known with “not another foot” of wall during Biden’s administration. We cannot risk further habitat destruction and, possibly, the extinction of life on Planet Earth. The world’s population cannot expect to move to Mars.

Linda Starr and Susan Ostlie, Co-leaders, Rio Grande Valley Broadband


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