I’ve been reporting on environment issues for almost 15 years, and during most of that time, it hasn’t exactly been a breaking news beat. There are disasters like wildfires or the Gold King Mine spill. But for the most part, covering issues like drought, climate change and energy policy doesn’t usually involve a race to deadline. It seems like that’s been changing lately, however. Part of that change is due to the Trump administration.
The fiscal 2018 price for President Trump’s border wall is in: $2.6 billion. That’s a cost to U.S. taxpayers, not a cost many people any longer think will be picked up by the Mexican government. As first installments go, it’s a pretty big number. Indeed, its size can be appreciated in one powerful way by setting it against some of the many budget cuts Trump proposed this week. One year of spending on a border wall is the equal of, well, the federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus the $231 million given to the country’s libraries and museums plus the $366 million that goes to legal help for the poor.
President Donald Trump built his campaign on the promise of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. Just a month after his inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to begin construction. And last Friday, the department took a step to make sure it will look good. In a little-noticed update, the department now says it wants a wall that will be “nominally 30 feet tall,” and, importantly, that bids will be judged on “aesthetics,” as well. The new language, perhaps coincidental but likely not, appears to be a bureaucratic translation of Trump’s oft-repeated promise to build a “beautiful” wall from 30 to 55 feet high.
Three of the state’s largest cities highlighted their opposition to Donald Trump’s immigration and border policies this week. The moves come as President Donald Trump has given more power to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to apprehend immigrants in the country illegally. The move appears to show wider enforcement against both those with criminal records and those without. In Albuquerque, the city council* approved a memorial reaffirming the city’s “immigrant-friendly” status. The move came in front of a packed crowd that included many who were unable to fit in the chambers.
A State House committee voted to pass a bill that would halt the state from aiding in the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico by stopping the sale or use of state land for such a wall. The bill passed the House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee on a party-line vote, with all five Democrats voting in favor and all four Republicans voting against. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, was one of the bill’s sponsors and said the wall would not prevent undocumented immigration. “If the purpose of this wall is to eliminate illegal immigration from Mexico, keep in mind that over 40 percent of those in this country illegally actually entered with a valid visa,” Martinez said. “So they arrived at an airport or arrived at a checkpoint with proper documentation and simply overstayed that documentation.”
Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said that the legislation would also send a signal to Mexico, a key trade partner.
It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who knows border issues better than Alan Bersin. His unique perspective combines years of frontline law enforcement experience with academic knowledge and intellectual interest in the historical, economic and social forces that are at work at the borders of the United States, especially the U.S.-Mexico line. Bersin became U.S. attorney in San Diego in 1993 and subsequently spent almost five years as President Clinton’s “border czar,” overseeing a border-wide crackdown on illegal immigration and drug smuggling. During the Obama administration, he served in several key posts in the Department of Homeland Security, including as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the force of 58,000 employees that includes the U.S. Border Patrol as well as CBP officers guarding air, land and sea ports of entry. He later served as assistant secretary for international affairs and chief diplomatic officer at DHS, a job he left last month.
Hundreds of people packed into the rotunda of the Capitol on Monday in an intensifying show of alarm over President Donald Trump’s clamp down on illegal immigration and his vow to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. The demonstration reflected growing concern nationally among immigration and civil rights advocates as Trump’s flurry of executive orders in his first weeks in office have escalated to include banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, an effort temporarily halted last week by a federal court. The demonstrators included immigrants here legally and illegally and scores of supporters who gathered to listen to politicians and faith leaders rail against the president’s policies. Children stood near the speaker’s lectern holding a broad banner that read, “No ban. No wall.
As the White House’s anti-immigration stance stokes fears along the border, it’s also highlighting the relationship between Mexico and New Mexico—and exposing how vulnerable the rest of the United States may be to increased security and surveillance. Earlier this week, a coalition of state legislators introduced a bill to prevent the federal government from constructing a new border wall or fence across New Mexico state lands. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Javier Martínez, a Democrat, today represents Albuquerque. But he was born in El Paso and grew up in Ciudad Juárez. When President Donald Trump talks about building walls and criminalizing immigration, that speaks to Martínez’s personal experience of growing up along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Former New Mexico Gov. and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson slammed Trump’s deal-making as president in an opinion piece in the Washington Post Friday. Richardson said that Trump’s negotiating since being sworn in even violates principles laid out in Trump’s favorite book—The Art of the Deal, written by Trump (and ghostwriter Tony Schwartz). Negotiators should also keep as many options open as possible. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach,” negotiator Trump writes in “The Art of the Deal.” “I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.” President Trump, however, seems intent on closing doors before he has an alternative lined up. He wasted no time signing an executive order that marked the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On a night where protests outside of a Donald Trump rally drew national attention, plenty also disrupted the Republican presidential candidate’s speech inside the Albuquerque Convention Center. It’s not as if the Trump campaign wasn’t expecting it. Before the likely GOP presidential nominee walked onto the stage, a voice on loudspeaker told the crowd how to treat potential protesters. “If a protester starts demonstrating, please do not touch or harm the protester,” the announcer said, prompting some scattered boos from the crowd. Trump previously said he’d like to punch one of the protestors at a rally in the face.