Group representing Arizona border communities reject Trump’s wall

Jan 17, 2019, 4:45 AM | Updated: 8:16 am

A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen...

A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday -- "I said bye-bye," he tweeted-- as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

PHOENIX — A group representing border communities in southern Arizona is speaking out against President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

The Southern Border Communities Coalition, which represents more than 60 organizations along southern Arizona and the rest of the southern border, opposes the more than $5 billion the president is demanding to fund construction of a border wall. The group argues it’s unnecessary, harmful and wasteful.

Jennifer Johnson, the coalition’s border policy adviser, told the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday that border communities have already endured the construction of hundreds of miles of walls and barriers.

“Regardless of whether the structures are called border walls, fences, levy walls or barriers and made of concrete, steel or some other materials, the harms are the same,” she said. “They harm our homes, quality of life, endanger wildlife and the environment and reflect a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Johnson also told the committee border walls and barriers have increased flooding along the borderlands. As an example, she pointed to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southwest Arizona where wire fencing trapped debris and caused major flooding in 2008.

In addition, she said border walls are disrupting wildlife refuges and parks, and it’s leading to private property owners having to give up their lands for border wall construction.

Meanwhile, President Trump has said the southern border is becoming increasingly dangerous. He has argued a border wall will help keep Americans safe as well as help keep illegal drugs and criminals from coming into the United States.

Johnson said she disagrees with the president’s claims. She described the southern border region as “one of the most diverse, safest and economically vibrant regions in the country.”

“Our southern border region – home to 15 million – is a place of encounter, hope and opportunity, not fear and conflict,” she added. “We are deeply disturbed by this administration’s mischaracterizations of the region to justify a deadly, harmful and wasteful border wall.”

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Group representing Arizona border communities reject Trump’s wall