Heinrich, Cuellar Lead Bicameral Letter Demanding End To Border Wall Construction During COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2020) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) led a bicameral letter with 25 U.S. Senators and 66 U.S. Representatives to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, urging them to halt ongoing wall construction at the southern border as the United States responds to COVID-19.

“While our country fights to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, continuing border wall construction places local communities at unnecessary risk,” the bicameral congressional coalition wrote. “We request that during this crisis, all border wall construction halt immediately.”

The coalition continued, “Currently, the primary threat to the United States is the spread of COVID-19. This deadly virus has killed thousands of our fellow citizens, sparked a global pandemic, and tremendously slowed the United States economy. Money should be invested in healthcare, small businesses, and fighting the spread of COVID-19, not used to build an ineffective and wasteful border wall that does not solve our immigration crisis or protect our homeland. We should be using all resources and funding to combat this virus and protect Americans, instead of using critical funding and resources to continue the construction of a border wall.”

“Instead of focusing our already-limited resources on the public health crisis of COVID-19, the administration is continuing to build a wall in a blatant disregard for social distancing guidelines and the advice of public health experts,” said Vicki B. Gaubeca, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. “Our number one priority at this time should be to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives. We do this by staying at home. Continuing wall construction is dangerous and beyond irresponsible. We urge the administration to stop placing workers and communities at risk by immediately ceasing border wall construction, and by providing the resources and support needed to fight COVID-19.”

“At a time when the country faces a real public health crisis, the Trump Administration should immediately halt all border wall construction to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our southern border states,” said Astrid Dominguez, Director of ACLU Border Rights Center. “We welcome this letter from Members of Congress, and call on the Trump administration to use this crisis as an opportunity to abandon its wasteful use of precious resources on the expansion of a border wall.”

"The only way to ensure that New Mexico stays safe during this global pandemic is to stop the militarization of our communities and provide fair and equitable access to healthcare services for all people who need them. In a public health crisis, we should all be focused on saving people, not spending millions of dollars on wall construction, which completely ignores social distancing guidelines and puts vulnerable rural communities at risk," said Johana Bencomo, Executive Director of N.M. CAFe.

Joining the letter in the Senate, led by Senator Heinrich, are U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Holland (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Representative Cuellar led the House coalition with 66 U.S. Representatives.

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear Secretary Esper, Acting Secretary Wolf, and Attorney General Barr:

While our country fights to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, continuing border wall construction places local communities at unnecessary risk. We request that during this crisis, all border wall construction halt immediately.

Currently, the primary threat to the United States is the spread of COVID-19. This deadly virus has killed thousands of our fellow citizens, sparked a global pandemic, and tremendously slowed the United States economy. Money should be invested in healthcare, small businesses, and fighting the spread of COVID-19, not used to build an ineffective and wasteful border wall that does not solve our immigration crisis or protect our homeland. We should be using all resources and funding to combat this virus and protect Americans, instead of using critical funding and resources to continue the construction of a border wall.

The construction of a wall puts workers, law enforcement personnel, and border residents in immediate danger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined social distancing and quarantine policies, which further wall construction defies. Those who are tasked with building this wall are susceptible to not only contracting COVID-19, but also risk spreading the virus to others. Continuation of construction only exacerbates the public health risks for those living at the southern border, detracting from our national efforts against fighting this virus.

At this juncture, the priority of the United States must be to stop the spread of COVID-19. The continuation of wall construction compromises those efforts. For these reasons, we ask that you take all steps necessary to ensure that border communities are protected from the unnecessary risk of infection during this pandemic and utilize critical resources to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.