NO BORDER WALL
Walls built along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past several decades are a blight on the landscapes and cultures of the borderlands. Hundreds of miles of wall have been built across protected public lands, communities, and sovereign Tribal nations. These barriers cut through sensitive ecosystems, destroy thousands of acres of habitat, impede the cross-border migration of dozens of animal species, cause catastrophic flooding, and separate families.
Instead of working to heal the horrific damage those border walls have done to the border region, the Biden administration is plowing forward with new plans to build new walls in South Texas. The administration waived the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and dozens of other vital laws that protect people and wildlife to rush construction. These walls will destroy habitat, stop animals from accessing the food and water they need to survive, and cut communities off from the Rio Grande, robbing them of their access to nature. The Center and our allies are fighting this senseless, destructive project every step of the way.
Prior administrations have already walled off some of the most remote, rugged terrain of the whole 2,000-mile border, which also happens to be some of the most biodiverse and ecologically vital territory in the United States. Cross-border movement corridors for Sonoran pronghorns, bighorn sheep, ocelots and jaguars have been compromised by recent construction, though not yet closed off completely.
The Center’s landmark 2017 report A Wall in the Wild found that 93 federally threatened, endangered and candidate species stand to be harmed by wall construction and related infrastructure spanning the entirety of the border. And our 2023 report A Wall of Lights Through the Wild showed that some 1,800 stadium lights along the border, if turned on, would cause severe light pollution impacting conservation lands, animal migration routes, and wildlife, including more than a dozen federally protected endangered species.
All in all, the border wall is a tragedy for the region’s diverse wildlife and people, as well as its rugged and spectacular landscapes. We’re fighting in the courts, in Congress and in our communities to repair the damage done by this cynical attack on our beautiful borderlands.
We won’t stop fighting until the wall is torn down.
With headquarters near the border in Tucson, Arizona, the Center has worked to preserve and protect the remote beauty and rich biodiversity of our borderlands for decades. We've been fighting against border militarization — including the wall — since the late 1990s, using litigation to block unlawful policy; grassroots lobbying to stop legislation that would worsen environmental damage; and creative-media and public-education campaigns to get out the truth about the real impacts of the hugely expensive, ineffective and environmentally devastating border wall.
We were the first organization to sue the Trump administration over the border wall and have since sued to challenge its construction in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the San Pedro River, the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Rio Grande Valley, and near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico.
In our work to mobilize resistance and unite with communities to fight wall construction across the borderlands, we organized protest actions in four of those five areas: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the San Pedro River, the Rio Grande Valley and Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
We also partnered with the Tohono O’odham Tribe in Mexico to file an endangerment petition for El Pinacate and Gran Desierto Biosphere Reserve, just south of the border in the Mexican state of Sonora. A wall built in that area blocks the cross-border migration of endangered Sonoran pronghorn and restricts access for the Tohono O'odham people, who travel across the border regularly for traditional and ceremonial purposes.
In 2022 the Center filed two legal challenges against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s illegal shipping-container wall in Yuma and across the Coronado National Forest along the southern slopes of the Huachuca Mountains, blocking a crucial migration corridor for jaguars and ocelots. We also camped for weeks in the snow with our allies to halt a wall of double-stacked shipping containers through Coronado National Forest and ensured Ducey’s wall of junk was permanently removed from the Forest.
BACKGROUND ON THE BORDERLANDS
Joining the United States and Mexico, our borderlands to the south make up one of the biggest ecosystem complexes in North America, with some of the least populated areas and most important wildlife habitats remaining on the continent. The region is host to a diverse array of threatened, endangered and rare species — including Sonoran pronghorns, lesser long-nosed bats, Quino checkerspot butterflies, cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, and larger predators like jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots — and it contains millions of acres of public lands, such as Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park, Coronado National Forest and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.
In the mid-1990s the U.S. government launched a strategy of militarization in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands that continues to this day. First the areas around ports of entry in El Paso, San Diego and other urban areas along the border were hardened and walls were erected using solid steel panels from Vietnam War–era landing mats. This had the predictable effect of forcing undocumented migrants out into more remote areas to cross the border, where many died in the harsh, arid conditions. More than 8,000 people have died crossing the border over the past 20 years. Documents show that migrant deaths were a foreseen consequence of a deliberate deterrent strategy to increase the difficulty and dangers of crossing the border.
The strategy of pushing migrant traffic into wild areas did not work to stem the flow of undocumented immigration — but it did vastly increase the amount of environmental damage the process was causing, as both the flow of migrants and the resulting border-law-enforcement activities were pushed into formerly untrammeled sites.
Thousands of Border Patrol agents began driving offroad in remote areas, creating thousands of miles of new roads in designated wilderness and critical habitats for endangered species. As detailed in the Center's A Wall in the Wild report, more than 2 million acres of designated critical habitat exist within 50 miles of the border and are in danger of being degraded and destroyed by wall construction and related enforcement activities.
In 2005 the U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID Act, containing a clause that granted the secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive any and all laws with regard to constructing walls and roads along the border. More than 50 environmental, public-health and Tribal-sovereignty laws have since been ignored using this authority, resulting in the construction of hundreds of miles of additional border barriers and roads with no environmental review. The administration has used this authority dozens of times to rush border-wall construction.
The results of these waivers have been predictable. Without the thorough analysis of environmental impacts normally required by law, new border infrastructure has been constructed in ill-advised locations with poor engineering — resulting in massive flooding, erosion, and millions of dollars of damage to both private property and public lands.