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Environment

How Trump's Mexican Border Wall Will Threaten Native Tribes—and Could Even Make Species Extinct

"Regardless of who picks up the tab, we can't afford Trump's border wall," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

US-Mexican border in Arizona, USA
Photo Credit: Chess Ocampo/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. – President Trump yesterday signed an executive order that pursues the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – a project that would harm wildlife, erode tribal sovereignty, disrupt communities and perpetuate a humanitarian crisis. Despite repeated promises that “Mexico will pay,” House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that American taxpayers will pay billions for Trump’s wall.  

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated in strong terms yesterday that his country will not pay for any portion of the wall, which CNN reported led to a Trump tweet suggesting he and Peña Nieto should cancel an upcoming meeting.

“President Trump’s insistence on building his border wall, based on misrepresentations about the costs and who will pay them, is an unacceptable breach of public trust,” said Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva. “A wall of the scope that Trump is demanding would cost U.S. taxpayers more than he admits and would threaten the health of wildlife populations and the prosperity of communities along the border.”

Park and refuge managers, wildlife biologists, and conservationists have found that a border wall would affect any animal along the border that “walks, crawls, or slithers.” Mountain lions, bobcats, pygmy owls and bighorn sheep have already been affected by existing fencing. Doubling down on this approach could lead to the loss of certain species, including some that people have spent decades working to protect. These impacts would come on top of the wall’s monetary costs.

The Washington Post recently highlighted the strong opposition to any border wall among the Tohono O’odham Nation, which straddles the border. As the Post reported:

Amy Juan, an O’odham tribe member and co-founder of the Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Rights Network, said a border wall would be “devastating,” not only for the tribe but for the animals, wildlife and water that flows across the border. It would make it even harder for tribe members to visit and care for burial sites in Mexico.

“The effects would be bigger than ourselves,” Juan said in an interview with The Washington Post. “As a people, as a community, it would be a literal separation from our home. Half of the traditional lands of our people lie in Mexico.”

“For wildlife and communities along the border, these are everyday facts of life that fly in the face of the alternative facts Republicans have been peddling. Regardless of who picks up the tab, we can’t afford Trump’s border wall,” Grijalva said.

Adam Sarvana is the communications director for Democratic staff in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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