MEMO: NEW Border Wall Construction Advancing at Peril of the Southwest


NEW: The Trump administration is currently carrying out miles of new border wall construction-- a result of the President’s national emergency declaration that allowed him to raid military funds for border wall construction. The Sierra Club is in an ongoing legal challenge of this.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) construction is beginning to take destructive shape across the Southwest. Already, several desert sites in Arizona have been stripped and destroyed for new barriers, including several places in the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. On the week of January 27, 2020, pictures showed CBP bulldozing a large portion of desert near Quitobaquito Springs in Organ Pipe. The specific site is sacred to the Hia-Ced and Tohono O’odham Indigenous people.

See below for details about construction happening in all of the border states, and the many ecological, cultural and community sites in harm’s way. Dan Millis, Sierra Club borderlands campaign manager, is available for interviews. Contact for use of photos.


Arizona: About six new miles of walls have already been imposed on the landscape near the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge east of Douglas/Agua Prieta. This project is slated to be at least 20 miles in length, and will connect with a nearly uninterrupted 40-mile existing stretch of wall to the west. This refuge is a restored wetlands that depends on artisan springs of ancient fossil water, dating back to 5,000 to 40,0000 years old. The aquifer is being pumped by border wall profiteers for their construction operation at the rate of 112,000 gallons per day, and could increase to more than 300,000 gallons per day. Four of the refuge wetlands are drying up, and because of the ancient nature of this water, rainfall will not be able to recharge them.

Elsewhere in Arizona, border wall construction at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument threatens to wall off the more than 30 miles of border the National Park shares with Mexico. Pre-existing walls measured only 5 miles in length, but recent construction has added another five or six miles. Pumping of groundwater threatens to dry up the Quitobaquito Springs, a sacred site to the Hia-Ced and Tohono O’odham people. These sacred waters at Organ Pipe and at the San Bernardino are home to endangered species that are found nowhere else on Earth. 

California: The U.S. side of the Bi-National Garden at Friendship Park near San Diego has been bulldozed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Border wall replacement and imposition is ongoing or imminent in the vicinities of El Centro, Calexico and Tecate.

Texas: The federal government has sent hundreds of letters asking borderlands landowners to grant access and sell their lands to border wall builders. There are more than a dozen pending land condemnation cases in court right now where the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking to take people’s riverfront property away for construction. 

In addition, about three miles of the privately-funded border wall is almost complete near the National Butterfly Center. The barriers are dangerously located inside the floodplain of the Rio Grande and contain a foundation that is a mere couple feet deep. Floodwaters will destroy the construction quickly, and likely aggravate flooding at the ecological site.

New Mexico: New border walls have been imposed by the construction company of Tim Barnar-- who is a board member at Gonzaga University. This specific segment is being built along dozens of miles of Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem on both sides of Columbus, New Mexico. Next month, more destructive walls are scheduled to begin in the New Mexico bootheel area.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit