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Democrats criticize the Biden administration and condemn the construction of the border wall in the Parque de la Amistad

Shameful. Embarrassing. A potentially indictable offence.

The trio of San Diego politicians who spoke next to the border wall in San Ysidro on Friday used those words to characterize the decision by other Democrats in the federal government to build 30-foot border walls in the area around Friendship Park. With their strongly critical comments, Rep. Juan Vargas, State Sen. Steve Padilla, and Assemblyman David Alvarez added their voices to the chorus of activists fighting for public access to the strip of land that has become a symbol of binational unity. more than 50 years ago.

“We don’t need this wall,” said Vargas (D-San Diego). “This wall does nothing.”

There are currently two layers of 18-foot border barrier enclosing Friendship Park, with Border Patrol manning the gates to the historic gathering place for families unable to cross to see each other. Those doors have been closed for several years.

The new construction plans, initiated by the Trump administration and continued by President Biden, originally did not include doors. But activism promoted by the collective Friends of the Friendship Park last summer caused Customs and Border Protection to halt the project for design stakeholder meetings.

While CBP has maintained that the walls are necessary because the old ones are deteriorating, they decided to keep the fence layer closer to Mexico at the current height for a short stretch near the park. The secondary fence layer will still rise to 30 feet in height.

since construction restartedAmigos de la Amistad Park has continued to shout the administration, saying that the modifications are not enough to preserve the essence and the intended message of the park.

Community members hold signs protesting border construction during a press conference on Friday.

(Carlos Moreno / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Department of Homeland Security and CBP did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Vargas said that the previous CBP Commissioner, Chris Magnus, had been willing to negotiate on the fate of the park. Magnus was forced to resign from the administration in November.

“He agreed to work with us and then they fired him,” Vargas said. “They literally fired him.”

The new acting commissioner Troy Miller has not been willing to listen, he said.

Vargas noted that Republicans have been talking about impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of migration at the border. He said that he would also consider voting for that impeachment due to the construction of the border wall in Parque de la Amistad.

“He told us he would help us and he hasn’t,” Vargas said. “He betrayed us.”

Padilla said he was disappointed by the administration’s lack of initiative.

A sign on a fence post says "Please open the Parque de la Amistad!"

Friendship Park sits between two layers of border fence at Border Field State Park.

(KC Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune)

“This is an incredibly sad missed opportunity,” Padilla said. “This is not if you can. This is no, we can’t, and we’re not even going to try.”

Álvarez called it a mistake by the federal government.

“We want accountability,” he said. “We want to send a message that this has to be different.”

Joining the politicians were Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, a state health foundation; Bishop Minerva Carcaño, president of the California Endowment board; and Grant Oliphant, Executive Director of the Conrad Prebys Foundation.

Ross compared the construction to the Berlin Wall, calling it a farce.

“We don’t have to kill the friendship for safety,” Ross said.

People hold protest signs near a border wall.

Leaders line up for the press conference to condemn the construction of a new barrier in Parque de la Amistad on Friday.

(Carlos Moreno / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Carcaño said the California Endowment is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to take a leadership position in the fight to save the park.

Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Carcaño also had a message for Biden: “Keep your promise, no more border walls.”