Activists and federal officials squared off near Lukeville Wednesday over the construction of a new border wall as part of the Trump administration’s plan to build 450 miles of the new barrier by Election Day.
Environmentalists say the wall is being hastily constructed, ignoring more than three dozen laws and regulations.
“They haven’t completed the requisite studies, haven’t talked to the tribal chairman, haven’t consulted with (US) Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Laiken Jordahl, with the Center for BioDiversity.
“It’s completely ignorant and unverifiable,” he said of the government’s claim that it is monitoring environmental concerns.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t do the same environmental studies that we would do under a formal environmental impact statement,” said Paul Enriquez, of US Customs and Border Protection.
Protesters were joined by members of the Tohono O’odham Nation which borders federal land at Organ Pipe National Monument.
Tribal members say border wall construction is disturbing sacred ground and ancient burial sites, some of which have been in place for thousands of years.
“We know as people that that’s a sacred site,” said Vana Lewis, a tribal member.
Tohono O'odham officials have raised numerous concerns with Rep Raul Grijalva, whose district includes the new construction.
Environmental groups have filed suit in federal court to stop construction. Even if they prevail, activists say, construction of the wall has already done significant damage which may be irreversible.