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Border Patrol Reverses Stance On Demolished US-Mexico Friendship Garden

The destroyed border garden in Imperial Beach on Jan. 16, 2020.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: The destroyed border garden in Imperial Beach on Jan. 16, 2020.

Last week, Border Patrol agents bulldozed the U.S. side of a garden that straddles the border between Tijuana and San Diego.

Now, after community outcry, Border Patrol says it will let gardeners rebuild.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Daniel Watman is a co-founder of the Friendship Garden, which he helped establish in 2007 when the border at Friendship Park was still just a chain-link fence.

Last Wednesday, he was stunned to find that Border Patrol had bulldozed the U.S. side of the garden, and its dozens of native plants. It also removed a concrete bench and sign that had been in the park for years.

Border Patrol initially said that safety concerns had prompted its decision to remove the garden.

"The garden was being used as cover to hide smuggling activities," Chief Patrol Agent Douglas E. Harrison wrote in a statement.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

But Watman doesn’t believe the garden presents a danger to the border.

"I think this garden contributes to the security of the region," he told KPBS. "I think there’s a misnomer that security is a synonym for enforcement. To me, enforcement may be a part of security, but so is cross-border friendship, so is promotion of native flora, so is family reunification. So this policy of division, it doesn’t make things more secure, it makes it more dangerous."

On Sunday, dozens of people from both sides of the border rallied in Tijuana in support of the garden. They put up signs regretting the loss of what they believe is a crucial link between two nations during a time of intensifying border security.

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Now, Border Patrol is backing down from its demolition of the garden, issuing a statement on Twitter that apologizes for its “unintentional destruction,” and that they have launched an investigation of the demolition.

"The original intent was to have the garden trimmed," Harrison wrote on Twitter.

Watman tells us members of the Friends of Friendship Park, which tend the garden, met with Border Patrol on Wednesday and were told that they would be able to begin replanting the garden on Jan. 25.

The groups are still working out the details of how much access gardeners will have to the space, but Watman said he made one thing clear to Border Patrol — that the garden must always be physically bi-national.

"The purpose is for people to make friends through the fence, so we really need it connected to the fence," he said.

Watman explained that the roots of the native plants are already so deep on the Mexican side, it would be impossible to safely move it.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover the border, which includes everything from immigration to border politics to criminal justice issues. I'm interested in how the border impacts our daily lives and those of our neighbors, especially in ways that aren't immediately clear to us.

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