Although Biden’s presidential proclamation to pause wall construction was welcome news, it has not been the policy fix we had hoped for. In the Sky Island region, construction continued right up to and—in some locations like the Pajarito Mountains—past the 7-day period given to contractors to wind down their operations.
And now, although wall construction has stopped in most places, road construction continues in the remote Pajarito Mountains where partners have documented active bulldozing. Because the work and proclamation is very focused on the wall, and does not address the full border system, we are witnessing new road work even now. It is likely that this road building and light installation will continue.
In fact, some contractors who continue to work on roads, lighting, and other components of the vast system of wall infrastructure say they will keep working on these border wall systems even though actual wall construction has stopped.
Trump’s wall of death has ripped through the Pajarito Mts, obliterating this critical corridor for jaguars & other wildlife. Half of the rugged range remains unwalled, but crews will be back at work the second Biden’s 60-day pause ends.@POTUS, stop this devastation for good! pic.twitter.com/lE0mK78Gpg
— Laiken Jordahl (@LaikenJordahl) February 25, 2021
Last week, Sky Island Alliance joined 70 other organizations in calling on the Biden administration to cancel wall contracts and redirect funds for the wall to restoration, remediation, and reparations for Native communities.
Though we are now 39 days into the 60-day border wall contract review period, it is not clear who is in charge of the contract review process at the federal level. The reviewers face a daunting task given that these contracts had neither been released to the public nor handed over to the Biden administration during the pre-inauguration transition.
We are working to learn more as soon as possible so we can offer you clear calls to action.
You can read a full explanation of the situation with contracts, funding, and the challenges currently faced in this blog post by Washington Office on Latin America’s Director for Defense Oversight, Adam Isaacson.
Other important next steps include:
- Ensuring the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture—the agencies managing federal protected areas like the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Coronado National Memorial, and Coronado National Forest—have a seat at the table to design and promote approaches for healing the damage done at the border.
- Ensuring that the local communities who have borne the brunt of destruction and negative impacts of wall construction are consulted with and have a seat at the table to design a road toward healing.
We will continue to update and share advocacy actions with you as we learn new information.