‘This is a human tragedy and an ecological tragedy’

At Organ Pipe National Monument in far southern Arizona, the landscape’s ecology confronts its militarization: A migratory corridor collides with a wall, a natural spring could lose water to pumping for concrete, and both migrants and locals who cross the Borderlands are monitored and tracked. Here amid a sea of saguaros, standing tall like giant green tridents, and organ pipe cacti rising in clusters like their namesake church organ pipes, the voice of local dissent grows louder.

Some members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose land spans both sides of the border, see the wall construction as the latest abuse from the federal government. “To the Anglo people, to the people of color, I want you to think back in terms of your own communities,” said David Garcia, a former tribal leader. “What may be going on in your communities has just started recently, but this has been going on for many centuries.”

The ongoing construction is already having ecological impacts and threatens to destroy or fragment habitat for 93 threatened, endangered and candidate species, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Biological Diversity. Already environmentalists fear that border wall construction, which involves mixing concrete with hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from nearby aquifers, could drain Quitobaquito Springs.

Vehicle barriers have been ripped from the ground, replaced by steel bollards. The difference is dramatic. Where the old barriers blend into the landscape — simple rusted metal columns a few feet high with big gaps in between — their successors resemble the bars of a giant never-ending jail cell.

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