What President Biden’s Border Wall Proclamation Means for The Borderlands

Border wall construction in the Patagonia Mountains, taken January 16, 2021.

 

Inauguration Day is finally behind us. The Biden-Harris administration took oath yesterday and ushered in new hope for many—hope that racial, economic, environmental, and health injustices (among too many other current crises to name, but are all just as important) will be made right in the days, weeks, and months ahead. 

Yesterday afternoon, President Biden took the first step toward fulfilling his campaign promise that “not another foot” of border wall would be constructed under his administration. He issued a proclamation for border wall construction that calls for the immediate termination of Trump’s national emergency declaration and gives wall contractors seven days to halt construction. 

This is positive news! But what does thproclamation really mean for the border wall and for the wildlife and habitats that construction has affected? What are the next steps for the wall? And how can the public get involved? 

Let’s break it down. 

What is the current situation at the border? 

Sky Island Alliance staff and partners have visited both the Coronado National Memorial in the Huachuca Mountains and the southern end of the Patagonia Mountains this week—two spots within our Border Wildlife Study where wall construction is ongoing. 

The Border Wildlife Study spans over 30 miles of the borderAs of January 20contractors are tearing apart at least six of these miles via blasting and road grading. This destruction is heartbreaking and alarming, as both the Huachucas and Patagonias are cross-border mountain ranges and provide critical corridors for rare wildlife species, including the jaguar and ocelot. 

Here are some photos of the wall construction happening at Coronado National Memorial and in the Patagonia Mountains, all taken within the last few days:

Digging equipment at work at Coronado National Memorial. Photo taken January 19.

 

Traffic at Coronado National Memorial has increased since late December. Photo taken January 19.

 

Road construction at the southern end of the Patagonia Mountains, heading west. Photo taken January 16.

 

Border road construction at the southern end of the Patagonia Mountains. Photo taken January 16.

 

For more on the current border situation, watch this morning’s Sky Island Situation Room discussion. 

What does the proclamation actually do? 

On January 20, President Biden issued a proclamation that called for the immediate termination of Trump’s national emergency declaration (click here to see the proclamation). 

Here are the major takeaways from this directive: 

  1. Work on every border wall construction project is required to cease. Contractors have been given seven days from January 20 to comply with this order. 
  2. After halting construction, a 60-day period will begin where: 
    • Funding and contracting methods for the wall will be assessed. 
    • Current projects will be assessed to determine whether there are “administrative or contractual consequences” involved in ceasing these projects. 
  3. Border wall funding will be paused during this assessment period, and a plan will be developed for redirecting border wall funding and repurposing border wall contracts. 

Can you explain the proclamation in more detail? 

We were lucky to have Dinah Bear, Board Member at Humane Borders/Fronteras Compasivas, join us this morning to explain exactly what’s going on in Biden’s proclamation. With a background in environmental law and policy, and experience serving as General Counsel for several previous administrations, she also gives great insight into the ongoing legal battles surrounding the border wall. 

Dinah is a knowledgeable source of information about the borderlands. Listen to her discuss the proclamation here:

(For what the proclamation does not do, jump to 7:30.)

How can get involved? 

President Biden’s proclamation is only one step of many that must be taken to ensure the border wall is stopped and the borderland’s wild habitats restored.

There is still much to do—and we can’t get it all done without you! 

Here are several things you can do right now to help us stop the border wall:

  1. Call your senators.

If you live in Arizona, urge Senators Sinema and Kelley to work with their colleagues to 1) bring wall contracts under review and 2) study and restore the damage construction has done to critical wildlife habitats, Native lands, and water sourcesFind a brief script and phone numbers to call on this page. 

If you live outside of Arizona, use this page to look up your senators’ contact information and urge them to support the immediate halt of wall construction at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Specific asks for elected officials in all states: Ask them to 1) call for public engagement (especially from borderland communities) in the border contract review and planning process, 2) demand that the Department of Interior is given a seat at the table in the process, 3) request the waivers to be removed, and 4) stop the forced purchase of properties in Texas for border wall construction.

  1. Amplify social messages to help spread the word about the wall.

Follow Sky Island AllianceCenter for Biological DiversitySierra ClubNot Another Footor any of the organizations listed at www.notanotherfoot.org for border wall updates—and consider amplifying their messages to help spread awareness about what’s happening at the border. 

  1. Submit artwork of the borderlands to our online photo gallery.

We are looking for artists to submit creative pieces of the borderlands! Any medium (painting, photography, ceramics, poetry, etc.) is welcome. Learn more here. 

  1. Donate to help us put boots on the ground during this critical time to halt border wall construction and begin restoration.

All donations will be put toward our Borderlands Research and Recovery Fund, which will help us expand our Border Wildlife Study to the full length of border impacted by new construction, monitor wildlife response and future recovery efforts, and create a restoration plan to heal priority areas. 

  1. Help us monitor construction at the border.

You can help us in our monitoring efforts!

If you’re at the border and take pictures/videos of the construction that’s happening at either end of our Border Wildlife Study, submit the data here. We’ve included a section where you can add in the location, date and time of visit, and any notes you have. You can also fill out this form if you’ve been to the border and have NOT observed construction activity.

For volunteers who want to help us in the field, email zoe@skyislandalliance.org for details.