While New Mexicans are being asked to take extraordinary precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration and its contractors continue to build the border wall, wasting federal resources and putting the lives of New Mexicans at risk.
At dozens of job sites along the border from California to Texas, workers from around the country still converge every day to work together in close quarters building the wall. They stay at local hotels and patronize local businesses, potentially infecting local residents and putting a strain on border communities whose focus now is on survival.
The fact that border wall construction hasn’t slowed in the face of an unprecedented national health crisis might seem irresponsible, but it’s not surprising. There is a lot of money at stake for a handful of well-connected companies racing to complete lucrative contracts that might be cancelled if a Democrat becomes president.
For example, Houston-based SLSCO is currently building 46 miles of new border wall in New Mexico’s Luna and Doña Ana counties under a $789 million contract, part of more than $1.5 billion total it has received in border wall contracts to date, according to the Washington Post. Barnard Co. and its affiliate BFBC, both out of Bozeman, Montana, have landed contracts worth more than $1 billion to build new walls in Arizona and New Mexico.
But it is Albuquerque’s own Southwest Valley Constructors—a Kiewit Company subsidiary that didn’t exist before 2017—that has won the biggest prize so far, raking in nearly $1.8 billion to build the border wall in its short but profitable existence. Last month, its workers were filmed dynamiting Native American burial sites to build the border wall in Arizona. At the moment, they are engaged in erecting new walls on private land in Texas seized by eminent domain, as well as installing new walls in southeast Arizona that will close off some of the last remaining trans-border corridors for jaguars and Mexican wolves, slicing through the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.