Commentary: LAS CRUCES -- Today, local elected, community leaders and the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights (ACLU-NM RCBR), Comunidades en Acción y de Fe (NM CAFÉ), New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC) organized their own town hall at the border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico, to send a clear message to Congress: don’t provide President Trump a single penny for more boots, more beds, and more walls.
Congress will vote on President Trump’s FY 2018 DHS budget request in September. If approved, Trump’s budget would construct new border barriers that threaten critical habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, add 1,500 new ICE and Border Patrol agents to Trump’s unaccountable deportation force, and further bloat already record-level incarceration of immigrants, many of them asylum seekers who turned themselves in to border agents.
"As people of faith, we have no choice but to take a strong stand against President Trump's proposed budget,” stated Sara Melton, community organizer at NM CAFÉ. “Granting President Trump billions of dollars for more deportation agents, more detention beds, and the border wall will make Congress complicit in the Administration’s cruel campaign to incarcerate and deport our immigrant family members and neighbors. Congress has a choice, and stopping this proposed expansion of the Department of Homeland Security is a moral imperative."
"The heart of one of the largest and most ecologically diverse wildlife corridors in all of the Americas exists at the center of the border wall’s proposed construction site," said Gabe Vasquez, southern New Mexico coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. "Regional, native species, including desert bighorn sheep, Sonoran pronghorn, Coues deer, and jaguar depend upon unwalled border corridors for their survival. These species migrate in search of food, water, and to ensure the survival of their species. Beyond our shared responsibility to co-habitate with wildlife, protecting these species and lands also serves the people of New Mexico by ensuring sustainability of our food supply and boosting economic development through hunting, wildlife watching, and other recreational opportunities."
“We have a different vision for border communities, and we believe in treating people fairly regardless of what you look like or where you’re from,” added Cynthia Pompa, field organizer for the ACLU-NM RCBR. “Trump’s border wall is a threat to who we are and only serves to fuel racial bias in support of more discriminatory policing and lining the pockets of private prison corporations. We all want to live freely and in safe communities. For the 15 million people who call the southwest border region home, that means demanding Congress invest in holding border agents accountable to protecting human life and respecting our constitutional rights.”
“Human communities and animal populations are both harmed by the unnecessary militarization of our border, whether it’s new walls or more boots on the ground,” said Kevin Bixby, executive director of SWEC. “The border wall will absolutely stop wildlife, such as endangered Mexican wolves and jaguars and thousands of other species. The border region is home to some of the most biologically diverse lands where protecting precious habitats and migration corridors helps animals to find food, water and to survive. This wall is a weapon against the wildlife and wild places we work to protect, and we are committing everything we have to stopping it.”
President Trump’s budget proposal is not only misguided, it’s unjustified. With border apprehensions near historic lows, a recent report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General found niether ICE or CBP could provide data to support hiring additional agents. Members of Congress representing border communities from both sides of the aisle have criticized Trump’s request for money to begin construction of the project.
Conservation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, have also voted to oppose a contiguous border wall and statewide affiliates such as the New Mexico Wildlife Federation have also strongly opposed efforts to trade state or federal land to facilitate construction of the border wall. Locally, a border wall in the bootheel region of southern New Mexico and Arizona would similarly devastate wildlife habitats.
The No Wall Town Hall rally included testimony from NM State Representative Angelica Rubio and Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy G. Garrett as well as ceremonial prayers and dance led by tribal leaders indigenous to New Mexico’s borderlands.
Today’s event comes on the heels of an August 12th protest in south Texas where hundreds of wildlife and immigrant rights supporters marched to oppose construction of the border wall through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge and joins #DefundHate actions nationwide that call on Congress to act as a check on Trump’s runaway deportation machine, starting with this budget.
Since April, ACLU-NM RCBR, NM CAFE, NM Wildlife Federation and SWEC have joined together to urge New Mexico’s congressional delegation ensure border communities have seats at the table when budgetary decisions are made that impact our health, safety, rights and environments.