The historic Friendship Park at the border of Southern California and Mexico is facing permanent closure as a result of upcoming border wall construction. This plan, approved by President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, utilizes designs authorized by the Trump administration and involves the building of two 30-foot walls across the face of Friendship Park. Paul Enriquez, Real Estate and Environmental Infrastructure Portfolio Deputy Director for U.S. Border Patrol, says that the 30-foot “bollard-style” walls that were built near the park during the Trump administration will be extended by this project. The plans do not currently include an entrance for pedestrians on the secondary wall, according to Assistant Chief of San Diego Border Patrol Alfonso Martinez and Imperial Beach Station Chief Justin De La Torre. This would mean that the U.S. side of the park would be inaccessible.
This construction would effectively end Friendship Park, which was once a unique binational meeting ground for separated families and loved ones at the western-most end of the U.S.-Mexico border, near San Diego.
Friends of Friendship Park, a community coalition based in San Diego working to expand public access to the park, released a statement condemning the project. “Joe Biden should not be putting the finishing touches on Donald Trump’s border wall at Friendship Park,” says John Fanestil, convener of Friends of Friendship Park, “U.S. Border Patrol says they are just ‘replacing walls’ at Friendship Park, but the proposed construction amounts to a permanent closure of the U.S. side of this historic location.”
This move from the Biden administration appears to be in stark contrast to his campaign promise to build “not one more inch of wall.” While President Biden was praised last year for signing an executive order to halt construction of the Trump border wall, many people may have missed that this pause was only for sixty days. According to Friends of Friendship Park:
The Biden administration has approved construction projects at multiple locations along the border. While many of these ostensibly “replace” existing walls, they use design protocols approved during the Trump administration. They also commit the Biden administration, and all future presidential administrations, to the ongoing expense of border wall maintenance and enforcement.
For years, Friendship Park has been celebrated for helping bring families and loved ones together from across the U.S.-Mexico border, even just for a moment. There are countless bittersweet yet powerful stories from the park as controversial immigration policies work to further the human divide. With the impending closure of Friendship Park, critics accuse President Biden of not merely betraying his campaign promise regarding the border wall, but also pushing respect for immigrant rights backwards, in the same direction advocates say the Trump administration was going in. Advocates say that they are not stopping the fight to keep Friendship Park open, and have put out a call to action to those who want to help.