Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Democrats call for halt to border wall construction during coronavirus pandemic

Democrats call for halt to border wall construction during coronavirus pandemic

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

While state and federal governments scramble for medical equipment, the Trump administration is spending billions of dollars on the border wall

Democratic lawmakers in Arizona and other states are calling for the Trump administration to stop spending billions of dollars on the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money being spent on the border wall should instead go toward fighting the coronavirus and providing basic services in border communities where poverty is widespread and health care is relatively scarce, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat who represents much of the border region in southern Arizona, said on a press call Friday.

So far, $2.8 billion has been allocated to build 137 miles of wall near Tucson, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hundreds of millions dollars more will be spent to build roughly 100 miles of wall near Yuma. All told, federal officials plan to spend at least $15 billion to build hundreds of miles of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border communities were “devastated” by the recent drop in shoppers and tourists coming from Mexico, Grijalva said Friday.

The wall funds should be “redirected to the borderlands” through the same legal process as other relief packages during the pandemic.

President Trump is trying to make up for his lack of leadership in fighting the coronavirus by “pretending he is going to finish the wall,” Grijalva said.

The Trump administration continues to award hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wall contracts during the pandemic, as well as deploying another 540 troops and military surveillance cameras to the border.

Customs and Border Protection officials say the border wall will give agents more time to catch smugglers and migrants crossing the border illegally.

The new wall will stand 30 feet tall, nearly double the height of the current fencing in urban areas along the border and far taller than the head-high vehicle barriers in remote areas.

The agency recently launched a website to show how construction is progressing on the numerous wall projects underway. Border Patrol officials also frequently post updates on social media. So far, more than 160 miles of new wall have been completed, including about 22 miles near Tucson and nearly 30 miles near Yuma. Nearly 190 miles are under construction and another 380 miles are planned.

Environmental advocates filed a lawsuit last year claiming the Trump administration illegally diverted funds from the Department of Defense to build the border wall.

On April 17, an official with the Army Corps of Engineers in Phoenix wrote in court documents that a pause in construction would mean a higher cost to taxpayers.

Contractors would have to be reimbursed for increased costs incurred during the pause, such as paying to maintain equipment and staff during the pause.

In recent weeks, Democratic senators and members of Congress have sent letters to Trump administration officials calling for a pause in wall construction.

“As the virus continues to spread and our healthcare system grows even more strained, all federal resources being spent on the wall are desperately needed to fight the pandemic,” according to an April 8 letter signed by Grijalva, fellow Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, and two other members of Congress.

An April 15 letter signed by 90 Democratic senators and members of Congress called for construction of the wall to “halt immediately.”

“Money should be invested in healthcare, small businesses, and fighting the spread of COVID-19, not used to build an ineffective and wasteful border wall that does not solve our immigration crisis or protect our homeland,” the lawmakers wrote.

Due to the difficulty in following social distancing guidelines during construction work, the wall projects put “workers, law enforcement personnel, and border residents in immediate danger,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Sierra Club also objected last week to using funds for the wall during the pandemic.

“Our border communities need resources to fight the coronavirus and protect people and frontline workers, but the Trump administration is instead subjecting us to a destructive wall without regard for the law, the landscape, or costs to Americans,” Dan Millis, borderlands program manager for the Sierra Club, wrote in a news release Thursday.

“It is time to put a stop to this irresponsible and reckless wall construction, especially as we face this crisis,” Millis said.

Democrats have long opposed the Trump administration’s push to build a border wall. It does not appear that the effort to redirect the funds has Republican support.

Photo gallery: U.S. – Mexico border fence

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter

@CurtTucsonStar

Concerned about COVID-19?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News