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Border Patrol Rushing To Build New 30-Foot Barriers At Friendship Park

The border fence as seen from the Tijuana side at International Friendship Park on Jan. 16, 2020.
Matthew Bowler
The border fence as seen from the Tijuana side at International Friendship Park on Jan. 16, 2020.
For years, Friendship Park, on the US-Mexico border, has connected communities in the two countries through good times and bad. In the coming months, Border Patrol plans to replace the border wall on the site, drastically altering the park’s landscape.

Friendship Park, on the US-Mexico border adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, has tied the binational community together. People on both sides of the border have shared prayer services, gardens, family reunions, and even sports.

In the waning days of the Trump administration, however, Border Patrol has told the stewards of the park that it plans to quickly replace the two fences that line it with two thirty-foot fences made of metal bollards.

Border Patrol Rushing To Build New 30-Foot Barriers At Friendship Park
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“It’s a further desecration of this historic location. The location was designed to be a binational meeting place. It's been frequented by people for generations,” said John Fanestil, one of the organizers of the group Friends of Friendship Park. “The whole purpose of this place is binational encounter. To build these intimidating walls and to make it feel more like you’re visiting in prison is to really undermine the spirit of the place.”

In January of this year, Border Patrol demolished the U.S. side of the Friendship Garden, one of the areas of Friendship Park. The agency quickly said the demolition was unintentional and pledged to restore the garden.

RELATED: Border Patrol Reverses Stance On Demolished US-Mexico Friendship Garden

Border Patrol Rushing To Build New 30-Foot Barriers At Friendship Park

Miles of replacement and new border fence built during the Trump administration were done under an emergency declaration that park advocates such as Fanestil want to see rolled back.

“It ever so slightly still feels like a park at Friendship Park,” he said. “But if they put up these bollard-style walls at that secondary location, it will change the visibility, it will feel like a dungeon.”

Advocates for Friendship Park hope the incoming Biden administration will not follow through on any contracts signed by the Trump administration.

Border Patrol told KPBS that the existing barriers no longer fulfill its “operational needs,” and that it plans to award contracts in the coming weeks, with the project to be completed by late 2021.

The Border Church, or La Iglesia Fronteriza, is not a brick-and-mortar church. In fact, the only wall here at this weekly outdoor service is the one separating the United States from Mexico. Border Church is an outdoor church that meets every Sunday on both sides of the international border fence between San Diego and Tijuana. The weekly church service is a religious celebration, but it also helps ensure that Border Patrol will continue to allow people to use this place as a meeting point. This spot, where the border wall runs into the Pacific Ocean, is where families whose immigration status doesn’t allow them to travel between the two countries can meet each other through the fence. This is the only place along the Southern California border where people can legally walk right up to the fence and touch people on the other side - just barely by poking their little fingers through holes in a steel mesh barrier, but still, it’s a touch. Today, a story about Border Church and the people who power it. Only here can you find a weekly church service that reaches people standing on both sides of the border fence. It’s a church that works to help protect access for families who want to meet through the wall.