Sightings of rare wildlife add to case for making permanent the temporary halt on wall construction


National Geographic reports that researchers “captured videos of a new jaguar on a ranch in Sonora, a couple miles south of the spot where Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico intersect—and where border wall construction ceased only two months ago.” Big cats once roamed the region but were killed off by hunters. Because only a handful have been spotted in recent years, National Geographic explorer and University of Arizona doctoral student Ganesh Marin calls the sighting, “like finding a needle in a haystack,” the report said

Researchers “emphasize the importance of keeping wildlife corridors open between the United States and Mexico, a vast contiguous expanse of habitat for many creatures, including jaguars,” the report said. That’s echoed by Immigration Impact, which said fencing “creates environmental damage,” and “prevents animal migration.” 

Citing in part harm to wildlife and survival of rare animals like the one cited by researchers, nearly 70 Indigenous rights, wildlife, and civil rights groups last month called on the Biden administration to tear down nearly 60 miles of fencing erected by the previous administration in Arizona, as well as some fencing along other regions of the border. Wildlife “depend on roaming freely through the landscape for their very survival,” the Center for Biological Diversity’s Laiken Jordahl told the Arizona Daily Star. “In many of these locations, if the wall doesn’t come down, that will be pushing these species closer and closer to extinction.”

“Portions of the border wall have destroyed cultural sites of Indigenous people and prevent them from traveling across their ancestral lands,” Immigration Impact said. “Twice in September 2020, Border Patrol agents responded violently to O’odham women protesting wall construction at their sacred Quitobaquito Springs. The agents yanked the women apart from each other as they held hands, knocked them over, pointed stun guns at them, and arrested two of them. The O’odham people have long faced frequent harassment and interrogations by Border Patrol.”

Ending construction isn’t just the right thing to do, it’ll also save money that should instead be used for better purposes, like ensuring the safety of asylum-seeking children in U.S. custody. The Washington Post reported late last year that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that Biden could save the nation roughly $2.6 billion if he stopped construction. The initial savings is an estimated $3.3 billion, but officials said they believed the administration would need to pay roughly $700 million to terminate agreements with private contractors building the monstrosity.

But just because the administration ordered a temporary halt to construction doesn’t mean that’s what happened entirely. Just weeks after Biden ordered that pause, environmental advocates discovered what appeared to be bulldozers continuing to level through a mountain and critical wildlife habitat in Arizona “in an apparent violation of President Biden’s proclamation halting border wall construction,” Center for Biological Diversity said.

The Biden administration already asked the Supreme Court to cancel oral arguments around the wall—and it should keep going in canceling the contracts and ending construction once and for all. “The 60th day was Saturday March 20, which passed with no plan,” Business Insider reported. “Officials told Insider than they would figure it out ‘soon,’ citing ongoing legal cases as a possible cause for the delay.”

“When the Administration took office, funds had been diverted from military construction and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall, and wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits by plaintiffs who alleged that the construction was creating serious environmental and safety issues,” the Office of Management and Budget said in the report. “Under those circumstances, Federal agencies are continuing to develop a plan to submit to the President soon.”

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