SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Friends of Friendship Park have reached their deadline with Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security to submit input and ideas to try and save the popular border meeting place between San Diego and Tijuana.
Customs and Border Protection and DHS want to erect two 30-foot walls that would cut across Friendship Park.
Right now, plans call for no public access that has been a tradition for decades.
In the past, on weekends, Border Patrol agents allowed members of the public to walk up to the primary fence and meet with relatives and friends just on the other side of the barrier.
When the pandemic began, this came to an end.
Border Patrol has said lack of personnel make it hard for agents to supervise the public at the park and has yet to resume the visits.
Earlier this year, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave the go-ahead to a construction project to put up the new barriers.
Border Patrol cited a need for the structures, claiming the existing walls are crumbling due to the erosion brought on by the salt air.
It says the fences are now a danger to the public, migrants and the agents who patrol the area.
Since plans were announced, a group calling itself Friends of Friendship Park and others have advocated to redraw the plans to include a new gate with the goal of restarting the public border encounters.
They were successful in postponing the work a few months back while getting Border Patrol to accept a public comment period before any construction might begin.
The deadline for this input is Wednesday.
“The resounding message is no 30-foot barriers crossing through Friendship Park,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee. “People can still register their concerns and their opinions with Border Patrol my understanding is Customs and Border Protection won’t initiate construction until the middle of November, so my expectation would be that even though the comment period ends today, they should still hear directly from people.”
Rios is optimistic an agreement will be reached.
“There’s absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be a gate there, why there shouldn’t be a larger gate for larger events,” Rios said. “This was a compromise Border Patrol agreed to 10 years ago. There’s no reason why it can’t agree to the same position that we’ve had for a decade.”
According to Friends of Friendship Park, 269 faith leaders, 156 educators, activists and artists as well as 57 organizations and 52 medical professionals have come out against building the two 30-foot walls through Friendship Park.
Border Patrol has said it will take into consideration all the public input and suggestions before making a decision.