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April 8th, 2020
Reps. Grijalva, Vela, Thompson, and Kirkpatrick Express COVID-19 Concerns, Demand a Halt to Border Wall Construction in Letter to DOJ, DOD, and DHS

WASHINGTON— Today, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson sent a letter to the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security demanding an immediate halt to border wall construction to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The lawmakers highlighted the wasteful spending of federal funds on a border wall during a pandemic and the likelihood that an outbreak of COVID-19 could quickly overwhelm small border communities.

“As the rest of the country shuts down to stop the spread of COVID-19, construction crews continue building Trump’s vanity wall with billions of dollars in stolen funds,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The presence of large construction crews in small border towns threatens the health of those communities where they are already underprepared to deal with the coming public health emergency. It’s time for the Administration to stop putting lives at risks, end the waste of government funds for this vanity project, and shut down border wall construction once and for all.”

“Our local governments have rightfully implemented social distancing measures to leave no stone unturned in battling COVID-19. “The continued construction of the border wall simply creates more opportunities for community spread as construction crews congregate, potentially exposing those who live along the border. Building a border wall was never a good idea, it is even worse during these times,” said Rep. Vela.

“There is no reason for construction of President Trump’s wasteful wall to continue during this pandemic.  There is nothing essential about it.  The billions wasted on the wall would be put to much better use constructing hospitals or other needed facilities.  Continuing construction only puts the health of the workers – and the surrounding communities – in danger,” said Rep. Thompson.

“The President’s border wall has already put our environment and border communities at risk. To continue border construction right now is reckless, and puts more Southern Arizonan families and construction workers’ lives at risk. Border wall construction will not cure this global pandemic, strong health care and science will. The President and this administration must halt all border construction and instead prioritize facts — economic resources and efforts should be focused on fighting this unprecedented health crisis, saving lives, not bulldozing our communities,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick.

The lawmakers wrote, “There is no time to spare.  Border wall construction should have been halted weeks ago. We continue to urge that the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, including the Army Corps of Engineers, immediately halt all wall projects. The Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments have the power to redirect their resources during this most critical time where they are needed most: ending this pandemic.”

Construction workers involved in border wall construction are congregating in small border towns that do not have the infrastructure to combat a large COVID-19 outbreak. In Ajo, Arizona there is one market, no drugstore, and no hospital, and many small border communities face a similar reality.

“Our number one priority should be to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, and we do that by staying at home,” said Vicki B. Gaubeca, Southern Border Communities Coalition Director. “Instead of focusing finite resources on the public health crisis, the administration is continuing to build a wall in a blatant disregard for social distancing guidelines and the advice of public health experts. This is dangerous and beyond irresponsible. We urge the administration to stop placing workers and communities at risk by immediately ceasing border wall construction, and by providing the resources and support needed to fight COVID-19.”

“It’s terrifying to see border wall construction intensify in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, who visited Arizona construction sites this week. “Trump is risking the lives of families, local business owners and construction workers for nothing but a twisted campaign promise. He’s adding to the long, painful legacy of injustice against indigenous people, who are disproportionally falling ill and dying from the virus. Border wall construction must stop now.”

“The administration is using the pandemic as cover to go after Texas landowners more aggressively than before,” said Robert Lopez, Outreach Coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Residents have shelter in place orders while the government has increased lawsuits against them to take their land at a courthouse that’s dangerous for them to go to right now. One of our clients is 75-years old sheltering in place with his kids and grandkids, and the administration wants to send surveyors there immediately.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.


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