TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO ERECT 30-FOOT WALLS AT FRIENDSHIP PARK
(See a sample message below, written by UUJMCA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team Chair Jan Meslin.)
San Diego Border Patrol officials informed local leaders earlier this month that a private company contracted by the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security will erect 30-foot bollard-style walls at Friendship Park, the world-renowned binational park on the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana.
The current walls at this location reach just 18 feet high. A “primary wall” separating the United States from Mexico, is presently covered with a thick metal mesh, allowing visitors to touch fingertips with people standing in Mexico. A “secondary wall” located 90 feet north of the international boundary is presently a fence affording a degree of visibility into the meeting place for people visiting the park in the United States.
“The proposed design for the new walls is entirely contrary to the tradition and spirit of this historic location,” said John Fanestil, Executive Director of Via International, a San Diego non-profit that houses the local advocacy coalition, the Friends of Friendship Park. “The Administration’s decision to move forward with this project in the waning hours of the Trump Presidency is a snub to the majority of Americans who voted against more border wall. And it is a slap in the face of everyone who calls the San Diego/Tijuana region home,” Fanestil said.
In notes distributed to leaders from the Friends of Friendship Park coalition after a joint meeting with San Diego Border Patrol leadership last Wednesday, December 2, Timothy Hamill, Special Operations Supervisor of the Information and Communication Division at San Diego Border Patrol, wrote: “The Secondary Wall contract has been awarded but is still in the design process … It is anticipated that it will be 30’ bollard style fencing [and] will have vehicle and pedestrian gates.” Beyond that, he wrote: “Construction plans will not be made public because they are Law Enforcement sensitive.” The contract to replace the primary wall has not yet been awarded, Hamill wrote.
About Friendship Park
Friendship Park sits atop Monument Mesa, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the westernmost end of the almost 2000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. For generations people from both nations have met at this location, the only place along the length of the border established specifically to promote binational relations of friendship and cooperation. The border monument at the center of Friendship Park was the first one erected by the binational commission established by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which brought an end to the US-Mexico War in 1848.
On August 18, 1971 Pat Nixon, then First Lady of the U.S., inaugurated the surrounding area as California’s Border Field State Park. On that occasion she announced the first phase of what would someday be “International Friendship Park,” and declared, “I hope there won’t be a fence too long here.” In 1974 the Monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. Plans are now underway to mark the 50th Anniversary of Friendship Park in August of 2021.
Since 2006, when the federal government seized land from the State of California and began erecting border walls along the western-most length of the US-Mexico border, the Friends of Friendship Park coalition has worked to preserve and enhance public access to the bi-national meeting site. Beginning in 2008, members of the coalition first met with San Diego Border Patrol officials, resulting in a 2011 arrangement allowing restricted public access to the U.S. side of the park, an expansion of the binational garden, a rolling gate to allow for large events, and a renewed hope that Friendship Park may gradually become a space for family reunions, environmental collaboration, and cross border friendship Since November of that year, San Diego Border Patrol officials have allowed limited numbers of persons to approach the primary border wall at monument circle on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, while gradually excluding all access to the binational garden. They have also permitted, under severe restrictions, occasional special events celebrating the art, music, and culture of the borderlands.
Ongoing Restrictions from Border Patrol
Across recent years, San Diego Border Patrol officials have denied repeated requests from the Friends of Friendship Park to lift restrictions at the park, including allowing people standing in the United States and Mexico to embrace their loved ones through the bars of the border wall. Members of families separated by immigration status often travel great distances – and often after years, or even decades, of separation – to be reunited with their loved ones at the park.They are bringing in a 30 ft wall to Friendship Park.
“As a person who loves Binational Friendship Park in Tijuana/San Diego, I urge you to NOT build a new secondary wall there now. People overwhelmingly do not want this new wall. The one in place already does a good job of obstructing visitations between families separated by our cruel border policies. The new proposed one would be higher and thicker, 30 feet proposed, obstructing views to the other side and also disrupting the ecological beauty of the area. The binational garden contains native plants which would be killed. The two walls in place are already obstructions. Please don’t replace one of them with a monster wall.”