The Trump administration has undertaken a massive, unprecedented response to the climate crisis. In fact, they clearly see this enormous undertaking as their signature project — the legacy this administration will leave the nation. I’m not talking about some tree-planting pledge or a sudden change of heart about windmills. Folks, I’m talking about the wall.
You might be wondering what building the wall has to do with climate change. There are many reasons migrants and asylum-seekers come to this country, including a desire to escape violence or persecution. But as the climate crisis worsens, it’s becoming a more important factor driving people from their homes. We’re already seeing it happen in places like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
So the US — the world’s largest historical contributor to global climate change — is faced with a choice. Will we offer refuge to families fleeing its impacts and provide them a pathway to citizenship? Or will we attempt to erect a useless, racist, and environmentally destructive wall to keep them out?
We can see what path the Trump administration has chosen. Last week marked one year since the president declared an emergency at the border, allowing him to divert billions in military funding to build the world’s most expensive wall. The damage it’s doing is both moral and tangible: You can measure it in separated families, lost lives, saguaros cut down, species threatened, and sacred sites destroyed.
The remote deserts in Arizona where portions of the wall are being constructed are among the most inhospitable to human life. The US government estimates that 7,500 people have died while trying to cross the border since 2000. The wall and other attempts to increase border security don’t deter asylum seekers from entering the US — they just push desperate people into even more remote and dangerous areas, causing more of them to die.
Meanwhile, the wall’s construction harms fragile desert ecosystems, border communities, and sites sacred to Indigenous peoples. Endangered and at-risk species are seeing their habitats degraded and their access to food, water, and mates restricted. Human remains and Native burial grounds have already been dug up by construction crews — or, in the case of Monument Hill, blasted to bits. Numerous archaeological sites are likely to suffer a similar fate. The Tohono O’odham and Hia-Ced tribes have seen their sacred Quitobaquito Springs — the only source of freshwater for 50 miles — threatened by border wall construction crews’ insatiable need for water to mix into cement.
Instead of facing the climate emergency, the Trump administration pretends that the real emergency is people coming to this country seeking a more stable climate, economic opportunity, and freedom from violence. They’re building a wall to divide us — people in the US whose livelihoods and homes are threatened by climate change — from them — people in Latin America whose livelihoods and homes are threatened by climate change.
But at the Sierra Club, we’re on the side of all those who demand real solutions to the climate crisis. The side that knows immigrants make our country great, and that we are never stronger than when we overcome fear and bias to work together for a better, more equitable future. That’s why we won’t stop fighting the Trump administration’s pet project in court and in the streets — together.