Border Wall / Friendship Park / Smuggler's Gulch

OPINION: Expanding the border fence in the San Diego sector–San Diego Union-Tribune Op-Ed, Aug 16, 2006


August 16, 2008

NO: It will destroy a relationship symbolized by Friendship Park

By John Fanestil

The Department of Homeland Security will erect a secondary fence across Friendship Park, eliminating public access to a historic place where for generations people from San Diego and Tijuana have gathered to visit through the border fence.

The Department of Homeland Security will erect a secondary fence across Friendship Park, eliminating public access to a historic place where for generations people from San Diego and Tijuana have gathered to visit through the border fence.

The seeds of Friendship Park’s destruction were planted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Never mind that the 9/11 terrorists did not enter the United States illegally from Mexico. The psychic needs of an aggrieved nation matched nicely with the desire to limit undocumented Mexican immigration. Post-9/11, the idea that “securing the border” was a matter of national security became axiomatic for politicians of all ideological persuasions.

The Bush administration institutionalized the axiom in 2003, when the newly created Department of Homeland Security took operational control of the Border Patrol, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (renamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and a host of other border-related agencies. With life on the border now cast in the light of national security, the strategy of militarizing the region came to trump all others in U.S. border policy.

This recasting of the border as a battleground in the war on terror has dramatically altered the physical and social landscape of the region. By the end of the Bush administration, over one-third of the border’s 2,000 miles will be covered by double or triple layers of fence. Vehicle and pedestrian waits at border crossings have doubled and tripled, too. Border Patrol staffing in the region has increased more than 50 percent since 2004, a figure that does not include periodic reinforcements from the National Guard and other branches of the armed services.

Heightened security has not significantly reduced rates of Mexican migration to the United States, but it has profoundly altered the patterns that characterize this migration. The cost of entering the United States illegally – as measured by the price of a coyote on the streets of Tijuana – has increased tenfold in the past eight years, a simple fact that has brought a whole host of unintended consequences.

Because there is now real money to be made in immigrant smuggling, the enterprise is more and more dominated by the forces of organized crime. The black market in falsified documents has exploded, as have cases of Border Patrol corruption. Poor Mexicans unable to afford more sophisticated means of entering the United States have assumed greater and greater risks by attempting to cross on foot through the borderlands’ remote mountains and deserts. Thousands have died trying.

Most ironic of all, more Mexican immigrants than ever are making commitments to stay long-term in the United States because the cost of re-entry is now so high. What for generations was a pattern of two-way migration has been turned into a one-way street into the United States.

Champions of “gaining control of the border” achieved a significant breakthrough in 2005 when Congress attached a rider to the “Real ID Act,” granting to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the authority to waive any and all laws he deemed necessary to expedite construction of supplemental fencing along the border.

On April 1 of this year, Chertoff took Congress up on the offer and waived over 35 federal, state and local laws and regulations. The Department of Homeland Security is now aggressively pursuing the construction of triple-fencing along the westernmost 3.5 miles of the border. To complete the triple-fencing project through the borderlands’ canyons and mesas, DHS has condemned over 150 acres of public land and is engaged in one of the largest public-works projects in recent San Diego County history. The project will conclude with the fencing off of Friendship Park.

The transformation of the U.S.-Mexico border region has imposed a deep psychic toll on people who live near the international boundary, millions of whom live in extended families that span both nations.

This toll is most evident at Friendship Park, which many locals consider their spiritual home. I have witnessed people kiss through the fence, cry together through the fence, share meals through the fence, say goodbye to dying loved ones through the fence.

Unless something is done soon to save Friendship Park, these kinds of visits will be no more – a sad and telling commentary on the state of life along the increasingly dehumanized U.S.-Mexico border.

*John Fanestil is the Executive Director of Foundation for Change, a San Diego non-profit.


YES: It will improve border security while protecting sensitive environments

The following is information provided by the Department of Homeland Security concerning the 14-mile Border Infrastructure System in the San Diego Sector now under way in Smuggler’s Gulch and west to the Pacific Ocean.

The Border Infrastructure System, mandated by Congress in 1996 and delayed by litigation and environmental permitting, will strengthen the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to reduce illegal entry into the United States and improve border security by:

Including multiple physical layers of security.

Building access roads to enable Border Patrol agents to speed response efforts.

Installing stadium-style lighting to deter border crossers.

Installing surveillance cameras to monitor incursion.

Efforts that include these measures are under way under the waiver of some environmental laws, a waiver Congress approved and the U.S. Supreme Court let stand. Among them is the completion of the 14-mile system near San Diego.

Two phases of construction have been planned for the Border Infrastructure System in the San Diego Sector. Phase I provides a continuous roadway system with security barriers and lighting within the middle nine miles of the project area. Phase II extends the Phase I roadway system, barriers and lighting west through the Tijuana Valley Regional Park to the Pacific Ocean and east to Otay Mountain.

Even more so than the existing fence in San Diego, the new infrastructure will reduce not only illegal cross-border traffic but its environmental impacts.

Tens of thousands of illegal entrants have left trash and high concentrations of human waste, which negatively impact wildlife, vegetation and water quality. Foot trails created by illegal traffic have disturbed plant life and nesting areas and redirected water runoff. Illegal roads have diverted the normal flow of water and robbed native plant cover of the moisture it depends on to survive.

Illegal entrants have caused wildfires that present significant threats to human safety and property along the border and negative impacts on habitats, cultural sites and other sensitive resources.

Contrary to some environmental critics, and to critics who use adverse environmental impacts as a proxy for opposition to the new fence, DHS will also include significant steps to minimize and mitigate impacts to the environment.

For all construction activities, the contractor for the fence and the road through Smuggler’s Gulch is using California Stormwater Quality Association guidelines for preparation of the project, for the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and for standard Best Management Practices.

The planning and execution of this new infrastructure has implemented many features of the design-and-construction approach, at a considerable cost to the government. The key stakeholders have identified these features as providing significant environmental and operating and maintenance benefits.

Controlling sediment from the project is important to the Border Patrol as well as many other interested parties. Using California Stormwater Quality Association guidelines, the contractor has prepared plans for temporary and permanent erosion and sediment controls, including slope stabilization and revegetation, brow ditches, ditch armoring and sediment traps. A California-licensed landscape architect is preparing all erosion-control plans and specifications for this project.

DHS surveys have resulted in numerous identifications of significant species and habitats that might otherwise have gone unrecognized. Among other mitigation efforts, Customs and Border Protection worked with the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Native Plants Society and the Sierra Club to protect a rare shrub known as the Baja California Bird Bush by relocating it from the proposed footprint of the Smuggler’s Gulch project footprint.

Studies were conducted between 2001 and 2002 to create, enhance and restore an area to offset impacts of excavation/fill work going on in this area.

To keep environmental impacts of the Border Infrastructure System in the San Diego Sector as minimal as possible, the Department of Homeland Security will continue its renewed commitment to:

Establish several erosion-control measures for addressing sediment in the Tijuana River.

Implement measures to slow and capture watershed sediment before it enters estuaries.

Reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of slides due to tiered, stair-stepped construction to ensure stability of slopes.

Put forward designs to install an aesthetically pleasing infrastructure system around Border Field State Park to enhance visitors’ experience at the park and preserve ocean views.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *