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As Work Stops, Opponents Of The Border Wall Chart A New Path Forward

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On Wednesday, contractors and government workers building the border wall along America’s southwest border must stop all work, after President Biden ordered a halt a week ago.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today contractors and government workers building the border wall along America's Southwest border must stop all work. The halt ordered by president Biden, KPBS reporter max Rivlin nether gives us a look on where things now stand in San Diego County,

Speaker 2: 00:17 Over 25 miles of 30 foot high border wall replacements were built by the Trump administration along the border in San Diego County. During the past two years, as of last week, work in several areas, including the old time mountain wilderness was ongoing on his first day in office. President Biden ended a declared national emergency on the border and gave construction workers along the border one week to wrap up their work and leave it in a safe condition. While as the administration reviews, the entire border wall project workers had just begun preparing to tear down fencing at friendship park, right near the Pacific ocean for another 30 foot high replacement project. Something advocates for the park have been rallying against for months. Many advocates didn't expect the Biden administration to takes it to media action along the border. John Fannin still is with the friends of friendship park.

Speaker 3: 01:07 Yeah, president Biden had said that not another foot of wall would be built on his watch. So that led us to hope that there would be this immediate halt, but we were pleasantly surprised that it actually happened

Speaker 2: 01:19 On the border in San Diego members of the Kumiai nation continued their protest against wall construction. They filed a lawsuit over the summer saying the government skipped necessary reviews into other construction would destroy their cultural heritage sites. As it continued to build the wall near Campo. Stan Rodriguez is a member of the [inaudible] nation who protested against the wall this weekend too.

Speaker 3: 01:40 It seemed like an edifice that was created for white hedge Emoni and also xenophobia and marginalizing native people.

Speaker 2: 01:49 The order stops all construction, regardless of whether the money was appropriated specifically for wall construction, or if it was redirected by the Trump administration to the border wall. From the budget of the department of defense, multiple judges have ruled that Trump's move was illegal, but border wall construction proceeded. Anyway, as of this Tuesday, construction had halted at projects across San Diego County that gives groups like the friends of friendship park, a last minute reprieve to try to stop a project that would replace border fencing. That's only a decade old Robert Vivar who was deported from the U S and works with friends of friendship park from the Mexico side, thinks this is a great opportunity to reassess the border wall project and the future of shared spaces along the border.

Speaker 3: 02:33 Perhaps it would be an opportunity for a dialogue to start, uh, regarding, uh, uh, similar by national parks, all along the border, uh, to really look at creating security on the border, uh, through friendship of both countries,

Speaker 2: 02:49 A 60 day review of the border wall project will determine what's to be done with the money appropriated to the border wall and whether to resume or terminate projects. The administration made clear whether it's pledged not to construct more border wall includes replacement projects. Like most of the construction done in San Diego County under the Trump administration. Pedra Rios is a steering committee member of the Southern border communities. Coalition.

Speaker 3: 03:13 Our objective is to, uh, make sure that the Biden administration understands that even a replacement wall is still, still has not only deadly consequences, but has the potential of transforming the local ecological habitat, defaming, uh, cultural sites. And that's an important conversation that can only be, could only take place when a impacted community it's consulted about how to restore the lands and how to mitigate the damage that has been done.

Speaker 2: 03:42 The Biden administration did not respond to her request for comment from KPBS, for groups opposing the border wall. Like the kunai the path for the Biden. Ministration is clear. So Stan Rodriguez

Speaker 3: 03:53 Prior administration broke many of their own laws in order to put this edifice up. No wall stops people. There's other solutions to this and a great person like a great country, keeps their word, keep her word, stop it, make things right.

Speaker 1: 04:12 Joining me is KPBS reporter max Rivlin, Nadler, and max. Welcome. Good to be here. Tell us more about the section of fencing that was going to be replaced at friendship park. Is this the area where the border church congregation meets?

Speaker 2: 04:27 Yeah, so right now there's two fences in the area where the Pacific ocean meets the border fence. It actually goes in at the border fence actually goes into the Pacific ocean. There was kind of the bollard style one, the metal fence that reaches into the ocean and then a secondary fence, which was made of wire mesh. Uh, the secondary fence was installed during the Obama administration. So it's only a decade old. The both of these fences were going to be replaced with the new style of border wall fence that the Trump administration had been building, which are these 30 foot high bollards. Uh, so it would radically change the, uh, landscape surrounding the park, which already has extremely limited access.

Speaker 1: 05:06 And would it make interaction virtually impossible?

Speaker 2: 05:11 That's pretty much it right now. The whole state park has been closed because of COVID restrictions and flooding from last year when it reopens already access to the park is severely limited. It's only a few hours every weekend under strict border patrol, uh, permission and surveillance, even just the, the image of these two 30 foot high fences on either side of what's supposed to be a park where people are supposed to meet and congregate, uh, made advocates for the park, consider it totally outside of the spirit of, of international collaboration and friendship.

Speaker 1: 05:44 So construction is stopped there. It stopped in time. Mesa has all the work done in San Diego, been replacement walls.

Speaker 2: 05:53 Most of it, the vast majority have been replacement walls, but in places, uh, further East, uh, in East County, there have been some new sections of border wall where there wasn't before. Again, I kind of want to raise the idea that basically when they say they're doing replacement wall, you're taking this very small barrier, which are, you know, the, the landing mats for Vietnam era landing maps that have demarcated the border for so many years. And you're replacing it with really serious high walls that are 30 foot high in that involve serious work being done around to support them. So it's a real transformation. It's not just a, a, you know, replaced an old thing with a new thing that looks just like it.

Speaker 1: 06:32 Now you said president Biden's stopped a declared national emergency at the border. Remind us was declaring a national emergency the way former president Trump got the border wall project going in the first place.

Speaker 2: 06:45 It was one of the ways it allowed him to bypass several, uh, reviews that would need to be taken and to reallocate funds from the department of defense to go towards border wall construction. So that reallocation was done under the guise that this was an emergency happening, be it either drug smuggling, human trafficking and just cartel violence that necessitated a wall to be built at that place. And at that time and allowed the government to skip all of these required reviews and planning and consultation with local groups. Of course, several, um, courts eventually struck that reasoning down, but they went ahead with the project. Anyway,

Speaker 1: 07:25 Does president Biden's executive order Mark a permanent halt to the border wall project?

Speaker 2: 07:31 It doesn't. So what it does is it initiates a 60 day review where the Biden administration says it's entirely possible that many of these projects go forward. They're going to look at whether the payment for these projects went ahead properly, whether the contractors are under obligation to finish the work, whether they could get out of the contract and whether these, you know, replacement projects should go ahead because of deficiencies in the wall design right now, by it in, um, has said, I will not build another foot more of border wall, but he never really specified whether that includes replacement projects. Something that both, uh, when he was vice-president was quite common along the border. They, they built several miles of border fence under the Obama administration.

Speaker 1: 08:15 Now more border news happened yesterday in federal court in Texas, a judge halted president Biden's plan to stop deportations for the next 100 days. Why did Biden one, the deportations halted?

Speaker 2: 08:28 Yeah, much like the border wall project. He did the a hundred day pause instead of a 60 day pause for the border wall a hundred days for deportations to investigate and take a look at what priorities have been done. Uh, under deportations who's being deported. Are they asylum seekers? And on top of that, what we have is a very large asylum seeker backlog along the Southwest border. Um, so look ahead in the next couple of days for actual action here, along the Southwest for the, uh, immigration agents who could be redirected from deportations to begin to process asylum claims here,

Speaker 1: 09:03 Why did the judge block the deportation moratorium though?

Speaker 2: 09:07 The judge who is a recent Trump administration appointee said that the harm to Texas in this case, uh, would be because it has to pay the medical bills and emergency services. And for school, for undocumented people who are subject to being removed, uh, who have received final removal orders. So Texas is being harmed by the fact that no one is being deported

Speaker 1: 09:30 Well, the Biden administration appeal that ruling.

Speaker 2: 09:33 Yes, absolutely. Uh, and it's important to note that not all of it was blocked because part of the proclamation of the deportation moratorium was changing ICE's, uh, interior enforcement priorities that has not been struck down. What has been struck down is this pause, the byte administration is going to appeal, but because this was filed in Texas, it's going to the fifth circuit court of appeals. That's a really tough circuit for a more liberal administration. There's a lot of conservative appointees there. This might end up going all the way to the Supreme court and who knows what's going to happen. Legal scholars have looked at this case as a really bizarre interpretation of the law by this judge in Texas. And basically saying, you know, this nullifies, the supremacy clause, which allows the federal government to direct basically deportation and, and other executive actions that it would like to do it. It makes Texas have a veto power on executive power, which, um, a lot of legal scholars are shaking their head at.

Speaker 1: 10:30 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlin Nadler and max. Thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.