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Border Field State Park

Threatened by the INS Triple Fence Project
on the México-US Border

By María Castillo-Curry

The INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) has proposed a 14 mile triple border fence aimed to stop illegal immigration from México. Located on the last portion of the 2000 miles that divide the two nations, this project will likely have little effect on stopping the migrants from crossing. The new fence will negatively impact the sensitive environment of the Tijuana River Valley, the Border Field State Park, and Playas de Tijuana beach park in México.

Construction of a new fence would require cutting into hills and canyons along the uneven terrain. The project includes a high-speed road developed in a 200-foot swath, parallel to the border from the Pacific Ocean to 14 miles inland. A 200-ft. to 900-ft. wide pyramid berm to fill in a canyon will be constructed, increasing flooding hazards for many of the 25,000 inhabitants of Playas de Tijuana, a residential neighborhood adjacent to the borderline. Playas has been the victim of floods in the past, which have caused the collapse of buildings and businesses on the beach. Numerous sensitive canyons will also be graded and filled, leading to a massive loss of habitat, species and increasing siltation of the Tijuana River and the fragile estuary ecosystem. The historically significant Border Field State Park will be surrounded by what is essentially a wall, and its meaning as a bi-national peace and friendship park will be destroyed. The larger fence will also negatively impact the vistas and general ambience of the park.

SOHO has been working with several organizations from both sides of the border, with coordination by the Sierra Club Border committee, in order to stop the construction of the third fence. The Border Field State Park has been placed on SOHO's most endangered list this year and we are also on the newly created binational Safe Border Coalition, which proposes several less environmentally and socially destructive alternatives to secure the border.

Now uninhabited, the Border Field area was once a major Native American settlement from which there are still many prehistoric remains. There are also historic trails believed to be from the Portola expedition and the California missionaries. On the Mexican side there is a vibrant neighborhood with several significant cultural resources from the twentieth century. The Plaza Monumental bullfight ring (90,000 square meters and 22 meters high), which is the second largest in the world, is just in front of the park and next to the beach. There is also a lighthouse, the international division monument, several vernacular restaurants, residential homes, and a smaller park that borders with the Border Field Park and the beach. The two parks were built to celebrate the friendship between the two countries.

The section of the division where the fence is proposed, marks the first point of encounter of two nations, two cultures, two languages, two religions, the ocean and the land. In order to protect the values of this area, other approaches should be explored first. Moreover all people affected by the project should be consulted, including the inhabitants of Playas de Tijuana.

The agenda of binational issues treated by US and Mexico officials include water supply and disposal, pollution, illegal migration, trade, and safety. Similar binational areas are protected and enhanced in the US-Canada border celebrating the encounter of people and the arrival of migrants from other nations. The San Diego Tijuana border area constitutes a region with a shared history and culture which both nations should work to preserve and interpret correctly.

2002 - Volume 33, Issue 4

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