Local Opinion: Trump’s border wall is coercion

Local Opinion: Trump’s border wall is coercion

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writers.

As members of Congress who represent the Arizona borderlands, we know these landscapes and communities best. It is clear to us that Trump’s authoritarian power grab to build the border wall is illegal and immoral.

Last month, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote to allow the construction of 68 miles of border wall which is slated to begin in both of our districts this fall. We are deeply disappointed and concerned of the negative impacts this will have on our communities.

We know that these border walls will irreparably harm wildlife, rip through our beautiful national parks and public lands, and cruelly divide border communities. This doesn’t make us safer; it hurts us.

Following the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history, Trump agreed to take $1.4 billion in wall funding — money that should have gone toward essential programs that benefit the American people.

Now, using the guise of a fake “national security crisis,” Trump has stolen billions from service members’ pay and pensions and diverted those funds to his wall. In direct violation of Congress, which holds the power of the purse, he has put Arizona’s public lands in his political crosshairs.

The planned border wall in our districts would significantly damage two wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, a fragile desert river and two units of the National Park Service — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Coronado National Memorial.

These incredibly biodiverse landscapes are home to endangered species like jaguars, ocelots and Sonoran pronghorns. They include thousands of acres of protected wilderness, and they serve as important economic drivers for border communities, visited by people from all over the world.

According to the National Park Service, more than 360,000 people visited Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Coronado National Memorial last year, contributing more than $30 million to local economies and creating hundreds of jobs.

Erecting grotesque, 30-foot-tall steel barriers is not just bad for wildlife and desert ecosystems — it’s bad for business. Wall construction would destroy much of the beauty and biodiversity that visitors come to see and imperil the jobs and revenue our communities need to thrive.

Trump has exempted the border wall from dozens of environmental and public health laws, gleefully disregarding laws that were made to protect the public. This is unacceptable.

With these shameful actions, the president has waived the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and exposed our communities along the border to harmful pollution that can last generations. He’s waived the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, ensuring wall construction — including lights, roads, towers and other infrastructure — will move forward with no regard for imperiled wildlife. The president and his administration have shown utter disregard for public notice and accountability.

Further, he has waived the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and American Indian Religious Freedom Act, exposing sacred indigenous sites and burial grounds to destruction, all for a costly, ineffective wall. This is a repugnant insult to indigenous peoples who’ve had deep cultural ties to the land long before there was an Arizona-Mexico border.

Every U.S. House member with a southern border district opposes this border wall construction — including one Republican. The people who call the borderlands home vehemently oppose more wall construction, yet our voices consistently fall on deaf ears.

Our communities along the borderlands have been ignored in the border wall conversation for too long, allowing uninformed and unfamiliar views like those of President Trump to take the forefront.

We don’t need more walls. What we need are real solutions grounded in compassion and common sense.

We have voted against border wall construction; we know our backyard and we have listened to our communities. As representatives of the borderlands, we will not be coerced into supporting a false narrative that is politically driven to promote fear and spout hate.

Trump’s border wall is not a safety measure, it’s coercion.

Raúl Manuel Grijalva currently serves as the U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, serving since 2003.

Ann Leila Kirkpatrick serves as the U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. She previously represented Arizona’s 1st Congressional District from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2017.

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