Resolution Advocating for a Comprehensive Border Security Study and Alternative Infrastructure Investment

Border Wall_AZ Republic Photo

We, the Phoenix Metro Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), representing 878 members of the over 90,000 strong AIA national membership, wish to register our concerns on the recent Executive Order (EO) issued by President Donald J. Trump entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.”

The EO seeks to construct a physical wall on the southern border to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. Measures similar in nature, focusing initially on illegal immigration and more recently shifting the focus to border security, date back to 1924 when Congress passed the Labor Appropriation Act of 1924 and continue with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.  In 2006 Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, calling for 850 miles of a two-layer fence between the U.S. and Mexico border.  That legislation was reduced in 2007 to just 700 miles of whatever type barrier the Homeland Security Department deemed necessary, of which the Department achieved 654 miles according to a 2017 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Each of these legislative actions were supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

In regard to the construction of a physical wall, the EO identifies the following policy direction: (select excerpts from EO are included below for reference)

Sec. 2. (a) secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism;

Sec. 4.  Physical Security of the Southern Border of the United States.  The Secretary shall immediately take the following steps to obtain complete operational control, as determined by the Secretary, of the southern border:

(a) In accordance with existing law, including the Secure Fence Act and IIRIRA, take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border;

(b) Identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of Federal funds for the planning, designing, and constructing of a physical wall along the southern border;

(d) Produce a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border, to be completed within 180 days of this order, that shall include the current state of  southern border security, all geophysical and topographical aspects of the southern border, the availability of Federal and State resources necessary to achieve complete operational control of the southern border, and a strategy to obtain and maintain complete operational control of the southern border.

Read the complete details of the executive order

We acknowledge that our local membership is diverse in their position on this EO and we seek to properly identify and align with the issues that speak to our collective mission as the American Institute of Architects - advocating for a better built environment, one that enhances community for the better good of mankind.  Today our nation faces unprecedented challenges: the impacts of a changing climate on our communities and critical infrastructure that is deteriorating from neglect.  We need policymakers to put aside politics and get to work.  No more delay – it is time to act.

We therefore offer the following values for consideration by our Arizona Senators and Representatives when engaging in dialogue with regard to the construction of a physical wall along the southern border.  As we have done since our founding, we, the American Institute of Architects, are committed to advancing public policies that seek the greater good and that foster stronger, more sustainable communities and a prosperous, equitable society for all. This is where we stand.

We stand for equity and human rights

We stand for universal respect for human dignity, and the unbiased treatment of all persons in employment, civic, and business transactions regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical abilities, or religious practices.  The Tohono O’odham tribal community which straddles the US and Mexico border has already realized complications due to physical barriers and enforcement introduced by the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The sovereignty of this native community is currently at risk. We ask that this be further analyzed during the ‘comprehensive study’ in the placement of the wall to not further impact this community and to restore this community already impacted by the Secure Fence Act and any other communities that may be impacted.

We stand for architecture that strengthens our communities

Infrastructure is more than roads and bridges. It is the public buildings that are the bedrock of our communities—like schools, hospitals, libraries, police and fire stations, parks and government buildings. Architects are uniquely positioned to guide policymakers to make informed decisions about reinvesting in our communities’ essential buildings and spaces.  The proposed enhanced physical border wall’s unintended impact will result in a symbolic and harsh gesture to a neighbor on which the U.S. border states economy depends.

We stand for a sustainable future

We advocate for policies that protect the environment. There is little doubt that the environmental impacts from the construction of the proposed Wall would result in irreparable ecological damage to vast tracts of natural vegetation, habitat, and ecosystems, including areas of our National Parks and Monuments as well as land that is under the jurisdiction of sovereign Native American communities. As contemplated, this impenetrable structure would impair several migratory species, including some that are endangered.

We stand for protecting communities from the impact of climate change

Global warming and man-made hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. We now have established consensus with politicians in both parties that the deterioration of the nation's infrastructure due to neglect and climate change is a priority noting widespread concerns about public safety, quality of life and the impact on economic growth.

We stand for economic opportunity and investing in the future

The Executive Order issued January 25th, 2017, mandates the construction of a physical wall on the U.S. and Mexico border, a distance of up to 1,954 miles spanning the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the terrain, access, and other construction factors, the early cost estimates for an approximate 3O-foot high reinforced concrete wall range wildly from $8 to $25 million per mile, and more broadly $8 to $25 billion for the entire project. Without financial commitment from Mexico to contribute to the cost of the wall, we believe that an alternative expenditure of $8 to $25 billion for public infrastructure could do more good for more Americans if invested in innumerable, public, brick-and-mortar projects, such as parks and recreation facilities, libraries, schools, mass transit, a 21st century power portfolio (including a smart power grid), a national fiber-optic internet, updated health care facilities, climate impact infrastructure, or a modernized national roadway system designed to accommodate imminent transportation technologies such as autonomous vehicles. Such investments would more broadly stimulate our economy while providing real benefits to citizens in all fifty states.

Therefore, the Phoenix Metro Chapter of the AIA requests that the US Senators and Representatives from Arizona seriously consider alternatives to an enhanced physical wall between the US and Mexico border, and advocate instead for infrastructure project investment that will best serve the public interest while safeguarding our natural environment and spur positive economic impact.

Download the signed resolution by AIA Phoenix Metro

Read a similar resolution adopted by AIA Arizona regarding the proposed border wall.

Image credits

Border Wall_AZ Republic Photo

Mark Henle/The Republic

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