LUKEVILLE, Ariz. (NewsNation Now) — The debate over the ethics and efficacy of a U.S.-Mexico border wall aren’t only about immigration. Wildlife advocates are raising concerns about the wall’s impact on the environment and highly endangered animals.
A portion of the wall — construction of which began during President Donald Trump’s administration — cuts through Organ Pipe Natural Cactus Park in Southern Arizona.
“The landscape has been completely altered,” said Myles Traphagen, a borderlands program coordinator for the Wildlands Network.
Proponents of the wall say it’s a crucial step toward securing the border. However, environmentalists continue to raise concerns that the barrier would disrupt the migration patterns of endangered animals and render some natural areas impossible to restore.
According to Traphagen, the construction of the border wall has devastated the area, destroying cacti that can live to be 200 years old and cutting off animals from essential water sources. The wall disrupts natural vegetation and wildlife, leaving animals like the jaguar, American black bear, desert bighorn sheep, and the ocelot to bear the consequences, he said.
But President of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd said the wall needs to be completed to secure the border.
“If you have a gap, they can run 100 people right through that gap before I can even get there,” Judd said.
The wall runs through the Tucson sector, which saw a 189% increase in migrant apprehensions during the 2021 fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, further construction would disrupt the lives of highly endangered animals like the Sonoran pronghorn. A wall threatens to divide the species’ population and prevent access to water sources, according to a Jan. 2020 presentation from the Southwest Environmental Center.
On the other hand, a completed wall would streamline the crossings and make agents seven times more effective in some areas, Judd said.
“We’re able to dictate to the cartel where the crossings will take place and if we can do that we can be a lot more successful,” he said.