DEADLINE: July 21, 2022, 5 pm Pacific

Hon. Alejandro Mayorkas
Department of Homeland Security

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We have learned of your Department’s plans to erect new 30-foot border walls at Friendship Park, south of San Diego. Building higher walls at Friendship Park is an offense to the values of compassion and hospitality embraced by our faith traditions. We implore you to bring an immediate halt to this project.

Friendship Park is a location of great historical and cultural significance. The monument at its center was established to symbolize the “relations of peace and friendship” that were described in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as the foundation of relations between the United States and Mexico. In her historic 1971 visit to inaugurate the surrounding area as California’s Border Field State Park, then-First Lady Pat Nixon expressed the hope that someday this location would become “International Friendship Park.” The proposed action would represent an abandonment of these noble intentions.

Friendship Park is also of tremendous importance to our faith communities in both Mexico and the United States. For generations, people from both nations have been able to connect for friendship, family, and faith at this unique venue. The proposed action would further separate members of our faith communities from their loved ones, including thousands belonging to transnational families for whom this is the only place they can see each other in the flesh. It would further undermine the purposes of the Binational Friendship Garden of Native Plants. It would also further impede the free exercise of religion in binational practices such as the weekly gatherings of The Border Church and annual gatherings such as the Via Crucis and La Posada sin Fronteras.

We understand that San Diego Border Patrol officials intend to consider questions of public access to Friendship Park once the new walls are built. But the experience of local leaders is that public access always falls to the bottom of Border Patrol priorities. Over the past fifteen years, since the federal government took this land from the state of California by eminent domain, access has been gradually and progressively restricted to the point that the Park has been entirely closed to the public in the United States since the fall of 2019, even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The construction of ominous and intimidating walls will further obscure the site from public view and further reduce the number of visitors to the Park. We fear all this will only encourage San Diego Border Patrol officials to make permanent their standing ban on public access. The proposed plans to build two 30-foot walls across the face of Friendship Park constitute a desecration of this landmark venue and an existential threat to its very existence.

We, the undersigned, implore you to halt all current plans for construction. We further implore you to direct the appropriate Customs and Border Protection staff to engage with local stakeholders, something which has not happened during these first eighteen months of President Biden’s Administration. We know that many local leaders, including from our own faith traditions, understand firsthand the many challenges and opportunities that this unique site presents. We can assure you that they stand ready to engage in respectful and meaningful conversation with federal authorities charged with securing the border.