More Border Walls are Headed for New Mexico

The Southwest Environmental Center speaks out against use of military funds for border wall construction.

Bobcat mother and kitten
A screenshot from footage of a bobcat mother and kitten SWEC captured near NM border wall

This week, the Pentagon announced plans to seize $1 billion dollars from military personnel funding and use it to build 57 miles of new border wall, including 46 miles in New Mexico. Of New Mexico’s 180 mile border with Mexico, approximately 33 miles already have border walls; adding another 46 miles will wall off 44 percent of the state’s international boundary. 

According to a February letter from the Department to Homeland Security to the Department of Defense, this is just the beginning. Future sections of wall are planned for Luna and Hidalgo counties and threaten the New Mexico bootheel, a critical wildlife corridor, tourism magnet, and biodiversity hotspot.

“We reject this administration’s attempt to steal money from the military and use it to build a useless wall that New Mexicans don’t want or need, a wall which will harm our wildlife and further militarize our communities, all under the pretext of addressing an emergency that doesn’t exist,” said Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center. 

This funding transfer is the first since Trump’s emergency declaration, the first such declaration in U.S. History to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for a construction project. Although most drugs are smuggled through legal ports of entry, the Department of Defense revealed that the $1 billion will be transferred from an account intended for counterdrug measures. Walls have proven ineffective at stopping drug traffic, as illicit drugs can easily be transported under or over them.  

“We might as well pile a billion dollars in the desert and light it on fire," said Rose Ann Vasquez, Operations Manager at the Southwest Environmental Center, "because essentially that is what Trump's administration is doing with our precious dollars that could be spent on the real crisis: helping people get access to the asylum process. A border wall kills life, period.”

Southern New Mexico is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the United States due to the confluence of different biomes and northern and southern wildlife species. Many U.S. species, like the Mexican Gray Wolf and Jaguar, depend on genetic exchange with populations in Mexico in order to maintain healthy genetic diversity. Border walls continue to close in on New Mexico’s wild and remote areas, fragmenting habitat and preventing gene flow.

Mammal Diversity in the US

In recent years, the majority of people crossing the U.S. - Mexico border are refugees from Central America seeking asylum who actively present themselves to Border Patrol agents.

“Enough is enough. We don’t need more border walls. We need humanitarian aid,” said Amanda Munro, Field Organizer for the Southwest Environmental Center. “Using military funds to steamroll border wall construction will do nothing to stop drug smuggling or solve the humanitarian crisis driving desperate people to our Southern border. What it will do is fragment and destroy irreplaceable habitats for wildlife in the Chihuahuan Desert, not to mention spit in the face of democracy. Border communities deserve to have a voice in what gets constructed in our backyard.”