SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Crews have begun cutting down and reinstalling concertina wire as they prepare to replace the iconic portion of the border barrier that extends into the Pacific Ocean with a 30-foot wall that will also run into the water.
But plans also call for replacing a secondary barrier with a wall that will be just as tall but stop short of the water line, raising concerns that it will cut access to Friendship Park, where people on both sides of the border can meet up and even hold hands through the tiny gaps in the barrier.
“We’re horrified our park is going to be ruined by 30-foot walls,” said Daniel Watman, who represents volunteers who promote and maintain Friendship Park.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, agents would open a gate on weekends and give people access to Friendship Park, if only for a few hours.
It has yet to reopen.
“The park has been closed for a couple of years and yet the families still keep coming,” he said. “Last weekend there was this guy that was yelling to his mother, ‘te quiero, I love you I miss you.’ It was heartbreaking.”
The Border Patrol says the two barriers currently in place need to be replaced since corrosion has compromised the structures, making them unsafe for the general public, migrants and agents who patrol the area.
“The current primary barrier, which included a monument gate, was not properly treated to withstand the corrosion from the adjacent ocean before it was installed,” a Border Patrol spokesperson wrote in a statement. “It is no longer structurally sound and is falling apart… The current secondary barrier was partially removed in preparation for new barrier construction prior to the pause.”
Watman told Border Report he and others would like to have more say before the walls go up.
“The plans for these 30-foot walls need to stop and halted right now so that the community can have input into what the design should be whatever infrastructure changes are made it will be conducive to friendship at friendship park,” he said.
Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas signed off on the project.
Watman expressed disappointment over the planned work and with President Joe Biden for letting it happen.
“In his first day of office, he signed that executive order and halted all construction. It was a huge relief and gave us a sense of hope that we’d be able to save our park,” he said. “Maybe it was wishful thinking, but did not expect them to go back to the Trump plan to put up 30-foot walls.”
DHS is calling the project “repair work” saying it addresses “life, safety, environmental and remediation requirements.”
Similar work is expected to take place in different areas along the southern border including Yuma, Ariz., El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley Sector and Imperial County, California.