San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez’s resolution opposing the construction of a border wall was approved by a 5-3 vote on Tuesday. Saying the border wall to be detrimental to San Diego’s environment and tourism, the motion asked for public disclosure of all companies involved in financing or construction of the proposed project.
Gomez left nothing to chance in shepherding the largely symbolic declaration, contacting a wide range of activist organizations asking for support, holding a press conference in advance of the Council meeting, and negotiating adjustments in the wording with the City Attorney’s office.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer issued a statement later in the day saying he would not support the resolution because “it includes language that could blacklist businesses based on the political leanings of the city council majority.” According to a Tweet from KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen, no veto is expected.
A big turnout for the press conference in advance of the City Council hearing suggested significant media interest in the resolution.
From the Times of San Diego:
Before the vote, dozens of residents lined up to speak to city officials. Three members of the public expressed their support for the wall, but most denounced it.
Port of San Diego Vice Chairman Rafael Castellanos was among those against the border barrier and said it was important to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community.
“This is not medieval China. We are not trying to keep out Mongol hordes,” Castellanos said. “This is not a Matt Damon movie, this is a silly federal frolic that may go down in the Guinness World Book of Records as the worst pork-barrel project of all time.”
Councilmembers Lorie Zapf, Chris Cate, and Mark Kersey voted no on the resolution, following a rambling speech by the Second District Councilwoman condemning it as “political posturing.” Scott Sherman was not in attendance.
— Jordan Beane (@JordanBeane_SD) September 20, 2017
From the Union-Tribune coverage:
“I want to make sure we are sending a strong message, not only to my colleagues at the city level but also to San Diegans and beyond, that a border wall is not something we need, and it’s something we reject as San Diegans,” Gomez said. “It’s a bad deal for everybody, but more specifically it’s a bad deal for us.”
Councilman Chris Ward said an enhanced wall would damage the region. “San Diego is a binational city and more importantly we are a city that’s been built by immigrants and continues to succeed on our own diversity. We are the largest city on the border and the rest of the America does look to local opinion to see how we feel.”
Councilman David Alvarez said it was sad that the council and the country even need to have a conversation about such a “stupid” idea, but he agreed it was important for San Diego to take a stand and lobby against the wall.
Construction of prototypes for Trump’s border wall is expected to get underway shortly. The Department of Homeland Security secured a waiver in August allowing it to bypass environmental restrictions to speed up the building process.
An eight-foot tall chainlink fence with green screening has been constructed in Otay Mesa, presumably to block viewing of the work on the prototype walls. It’s covered with signs from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) designating it a restricted area.
Preparation for protests is underway. The Union-Tribune reported last week on discussions underway between the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and Customs and Border Protection about setting up a designated protest area for opponents.
The possibility of protests have shadowed the wall building project since the government first solicited bids for the prototypes in March.
The 76-page bid request includes a section on security, advising contractors they are responsible for security for their equipment and workers, and requiring a Security Plan — including detailed provisions for “fall-back positions, evacuation routines and methods, muster area … in the event of a hostile attack.”
In another section, bidders were also asked directly about any prior work on controversial jobs. “Describe your experience executing high profile, high visibility and politically contentious design build projects,” the proposal said.
On Wednesday The Wall Street Journal reported that CBP had sent a memo Sept. 6 to state and local law enforcement warning of protests and potential violence. The memo apparently warned that protests could be similar to those against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, which at its peak in 2016 and 2017 attracted thousands of protesters and led to hundreds of arrests.
Funding for the prototypes was taken from money in the budget originally set aside for mobile video surveillance. The sample walls are required to be 30 feet tall, unclimbable, and built to prevent digging for 6 feet below the wall.
Politico reported this morning on a lawsuit set to be filed in federal court in San Diego arguing the construction project violates federal law and the Constitution by intruding on state authority.
“They’re violating the Tenth Amendment and infringing on a lot of state laws, not just federal laws, that affect our state. At the same time, they’re trying to do something that only Congress can do,” [California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra told journalists in Washington in advance of an official announcement he plans to make in San Diego Wednesday.
Becerra said the suit will argue that federal officials are running afoul of the law by declaring the expansion of the border wall to be an emergency that justifies waiving environmental studies and usual contracting procedures.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to create a border wall that the Mexican government would pay for. Mexican officials have flatly rejected contributing any funds to such a project. With most Democrats in Congress staunchly opposed to the idea, it’s unclear how Trump will get money for construction.
The President has acknowledged recently that a continuous barrier would not be necessary given natural barriers such as lakes, rivers, and mountains. International treaty and flood zone requirements are also problematic for construction of a seamless wall.
President Trump and Vice President Pence are responding to criticism suggesting they were going soft on a commitment to build the wall by running targeted “dark” ads on Facebook, according to Buzzfeed:
The ads are not visible on the timelines of the Trump or Pence Facebook pages. They are, therefore, so-called “dark post ads” because they can only be seen by people the campaign chose to target with the message. This is the same type of ad Facebook recently acknowledged was purchased by a Russian troll factory in order to target Americans during the election. That revelation has caused lawmakers such as Sen. Mark Warner to discuss the need to regulate online political ads.
“An American can still figure out what content is being used on TV advertising. … But in social media there’s no such requirement,” Warner said, according to CNN.
The Trump and Pence ads also highlight how politicians can use targeted ads to push a message to supporters that walks back or contradicts a public statement.
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez interviewed Wayne Cornelius, a semiretired U.C. San Diego professor and co-founder of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, who pointed out that “… unauthorized Mexican migration to the U.S. has fallen to levels not seen since the early 1970s.”
Even where the wall is already fortified and patrolled, there’s no evidence that arrests are a deterrent to those who make repeated attempts, Cornelius said. And “between one-third and one-half of recent illegal entries occurred through false or borrowed documents, or people concealed in vehicles,” he said.
A fortress wall won’t help in those cases. And in recent years, people who came to the U.S. legally and then overstayed their visas have outnumbered those who jumped a fence or tunneled under it.
“Jeff Sessions and the administration … are really like the proverbial generals who are always fighting the last war,” Cornelius said. “They’re determined to solve a problem that no longer exists, or at least not as it did in the 1970s to 1990s.”
If it ever gets built, the wall will be big, it’ll be beautiful, and it’ll be a multibillion-dollar boondoggle.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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