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Heinrich: Government Watchdog Finds Extensive Damage to Wildlife, Sacred Sites, and Local Communities from Trump’s Border Wall Construction

Recommendations in new GAO report align with Heinrich’s longtime calls to rescind border wall construction funds and prioritize remediation efforts to repair natural and cultural resources

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, welcomed the release of a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan government watchdog agency, detailing the damage wrought by former President Trump’s border wall on the country’s natural and cultural resources.
According to the report, President Trump’s border wall construction:
  • destroyed sacred Tribal sites and burial grounds;
  • sapped preciously scarce Western water resources in some areas and caused damming and flooding in others;
  • permanently altered wildlife migration patterns and put endangered species at even greater risk of extinction;
  • and decimated native plants while also recklessly spreading invasive species.
GAO issued three recommendations in their report:
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should jointly document, with the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), a strategy for mitigating impacts to natural and cultural resources.
  • DOI should jointly document, with CBP, a strategy for mitigating impacts to natural and cultural resources.
  • CBP should evaluate lessons learned from its assessment process.
Throughout his time in Congress, Senator Heinrich has pushed to fix our nation’s broken immigration system through effective policy solutions, while also delivering funding to federal officials and local communities along the southern border.
Recently, Heinrich welcomed President Joe Biden’s FY24 supplemental funding request that includes substantial investments in New Mexicans’ health and safety by strengthening border security, repairing and expediting the nation’s immigration process, and combatting the flow of illicit fentanyl.
The request included $4 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border, including $2.2 billion for border management, shelter and services mutual aid reimbursement, and $800 million for the Department of State to identify root causes of immigration that will help Administration understand the forces driving families and children to flee dangerous conditions at home.
In May, Senator Heinrich led a letter with U.S. Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to rescind previous border wall construction funding and to transfer funds to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to remediate the incalculable damage caused by border wall construction under the Trump administration.
In May, Heinrich also announced a new legislative proposal to respond to the immediate needs on the southern border. While not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, the Senators’ proposal would provide funding to federal officials and local communities responding to an increase in asylum seekers admitted into the United States after Title 42 came to an end.  
In February 2022, Heinrich visited Bootheel and was briefed by Bureau of Land Management personnel and local conservationists on the damage inflicted by border wall construction, especially to federal lands and endangered species.
In April 2021, Senator Heinrich welcomed the White House’s announcementthat the Department of Defense canceled all of its pending construction contracts for former President Trump’s border wall and that the Department of Homeland Security would help communities along the southern border repair physical damage that resulted from its construction.
Senator Heinrich requested a previous U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that detailed that as of July 2020 the federal government seized 135 private tracts of land and was trying to acquire 991 additional tracts for the Trump administration’s border wall.
Senator Heinrich, along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and former U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro in August 2019 calling for an investigation into the Trump administration’s use of eminent domain to seize private land to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Senator Heinrich also forcefully denounced the Trump administration’s efforts to raid $125 million from New Mexico military construction projects, including $85 million from a project at Holloman Air Force Base and $40 million from a project at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), to pay for President Trump’s border wall.