About DukeEngage Tucson 2010

Immigration is perhaps the single largest domestic challenge facing both the United States and Mexico today. People die nearly every week attempting to cross the border. Hostilities against immigrants in the U.S. rise daily. Local, state, and international relations are increasingly strained.

For eight weeks this summer, seven students have been given the opportunity to travel to Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico to study the many faces of immigration. Following two weeks of meetings with local activists, a Border Patrol agent, a federal public defender, lawyers, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, maquiladora owners, Grupos Beta employees, migrants, and local farmers, we will spend six weeks partnered with Southside Day Labor Camp, BorderLinks, or Humane Borders in order to further immerse ourselves in the issues of immigration.

This blog chronicles our experiences and our perspectives on what we learn while here in Arizona. We hope our stories are interesting and informative.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Part 2: The Environmental Impact of the Border Wall

(Picture of Border Wall from Nogales, Mexico side)

They are trashing the desert. They are polluting the environment. They are damaging vegetation. They are disturbing wildlife. These arguments are used by some to argue for a closed border. The migration through the deserts of Arizona is damaging the environment and therefore needs to stop. The migrants and their journeys are to blame for the environmental destruction scarring the Arizona desert.

According to the Sierra Club, though, it is not the migrants who are causing real and long lasting damage to the many and priceless ecosystems of the border region. It is the border wall that is doing so. The trash can always be picked up. The trails can be repaired. The vegetation can grow back. But animals that go extinct will not come back. Cities that are buried under meters of water won’t ever be the same.

(Arizona Desert Landscape)

Research conducted by professors at the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley with the help of the Defenders of Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have found that natural movement of the pygmy owl and the bighorn sheep is affected by the border wall. The result is that natural migration of animals is stymied and gene flow is impeded, thus decreasing the diversity of the border region and changing natural wildlife patterns. Images and videos of javelinas and deer stopped at the wall show that owls and sheep are not the only animals affected by the wall. The wall is changing the natural environment of ecologically sensitive and unique areas, such as the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Sonoran Desert, among others.

Migrants will enter the US regardless of the size of the walls built. As I said in my earlier post, the wall slows migrants down by only 5 minutes. Instead of keeping migrants out, the border wall is instead pushing migrants in to more ecologically sensitive areas, such as mountain ranges and National Wildlife areas. The Border Patrol in turn builds roads to pursue these migrants, roads that cause even greater damage to the environment. Without the border wall, the damage caused by migrants would be limited to trash collection and trail use, both easily repaired.

(Trash left by migrants along trails in the Arizona desert)

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