April 21, 2020
Dear Secretary Esper, Acting Secretary Wolf, and Attorney General Barr:
I am writing at this time to respectfully request that during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that now grips our country, all Border Wall construction halt immediately. Ongoing construction of this project during the current crisis puts local communities along the southern border of my State, New Mexico, at troubling and unnecessary risk.
Earlier this month, I called publicly on the Mayor of Columbus, New Mexico to support the removal of a planned ‘man camp’ temporary housing settlement in that village near our border with Mexico. I was joined by residents, elected leaders and numerous civic groups across the state who registered their strong opposition to the construction project moving forward at this time.
The sprawling trailer camp that was planned would have been located in the center of the small Luna County, NM town. It would have been home for up to 60 workers – many from out of state – employed in the ongoing construction of the massive federal wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The ‘man camp’ posed a serious danger to spread the COVID-19 virus to New Mexico residents, especially in that remote, rural area. There are few health care, emergency or hospital resources near Columbus, NM to treat people who might have become sick from COVID-19. I am gratified that the Mayor agreed with us, and the settlement will be located elsewhere with less potential danger to cause infection. I congratulate Mayor Salas and Columbus residents, our congressional delegation, and all the dedicated civic groups across New Mexico who worked tirelessly, and were heard clearly, on this important issue.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has called on all New Mexicans to help stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus by staying home, doing social distancing, and halting all non-essential activities. We are doing our best to comply. In fact, across our state individuals and local communities are making herculean efforts to protect the health of our residents, often at substantial economic cost.
Bringing dozens of workers into New Mexico from out of state for weeks at a time as part of the federal Border Wall construction project, without regard for or adequate protections from the threat of spreading COVID-19, would be extremely reckless. It would undermine all the efforts that we are undertaking in our state now and put the safety and health of rural residents in southern New Mexico in considerable danger.
The emergency that we face today is the need for more testing for novel coronavirus, more PPE for health care and other workers, more ICU beds, more resources for contact tracing, and more support for businesses and workers who are experiencing intense economic dislocation as a result of this pandemic. There is no urgency whatsoever to construct the federal Border Wall along the southern border of New Mexico, and it poses a serious risk to spread the deadly virus to our residents.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Howie C. Morales
Lt. Governor of New Mexico