SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Political leaders and community activists gathered Friday morning to express their displeasure and dismay with the ongoing border-wall construction at Friendship Park, which sits on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean between San Diego and Tijuana.
For decades, the park has been known as a gathering spot where family members and friends, from both sides of the border, could meet with the wall between them.
Access to the area has been controlled and monitored by Border Patrol agents on weekends.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has started the work to replace two barriers that according to the agency are decaying and in danger of falling down, creating a hazard for the public, migrants and the agents who patrol the area.
The project calls for two 30-foot walls to be erected, work began a few weeks ago and it’s expected to last six months.
“There’s no reason for this wall, there’s no reason for the Trump wall, there’s no reason for the Biden administration to put up the Trump wall,” said U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-California. “We’re not happy about this, we’re not going to allow this to stand.”
Vargas was joined by California Assemblyman David Alvarez and state Sen. Steve Padilla along with community leaders and members of Friends of Friendship Park.
“Why is this country so afraid of families who simply want to see one another, simply want to be together for a few hours across the border line,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño, of the California Endowment. “Where is the courage, where is the humanity.”
The Border Patrol has issued a statement about the work, the need for the new barriers and future public access:
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced a new path forward on January 17, 2023, for the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Friendship Circle Project to replace deteriorated primary and secondary border fence located adjacent to Friendship Circle in San Diego, California. Construction to replace the existing secondary fence began on February 13, 2023. During the additional stakeholder outreach period in late 2022, it was determined that access to Friendship Park was the top priority for the local community. As such, it was a high priority to CBP to begin construction to allow for future access to the Park.
These initial construction actions will not impact the Friendship Park Circle or Binational Garden located adjacent to the primary fence and east of the Friendship Park. CBP is in the process of modifying the contract for the replacement of the primary fence, based on the approved path forward, which includes modifying the height at the approximately 60 feet adjacent to Friendship Park to 18 feet tall. USBP will coordinate with stakeholders to salvage any native and protected plants within the Binational Garden prior to construction activities for the primary fence. In addition, USBP remains committed to restoring the Binational Garden following the completion of construction activities.
The replacement of the primary and secondary fencing in the Friendship Park area will provide much needed improvements to the border infrastructure and will allow visitors on the U.S. side to access the Park, once construction is complete assuming it is operationally safe to do so, which has been closed for many years due to the condition of the existing fencing. This will allow visitors on the U.S. side of the border to communicate with friends and family located in Mexico on the other side of the primary barrier as in years past.”
John Fanestil, a member of Friends of Friendship Park says the Border Patrol and CBP need to be more inclusive.
“We need a Border Patrol that would build relations with the community,” said Fanestil. “It should make legitimate and serious compromises to engage with the community.”
Fanestil went as far as to say that more access to the park would make the area safer.
“Friendship Park and the San Diego Tijuana border will be more secure, not less, if they create a binational park where people can meet peacefully,” Fanestil said.
During the rally, Vargas said he will continue to lobby Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to stop the work at Friendship Park.
“He told us he would help us, he hasn’t done it, he’s betrayed us,” said Vargas.