West News Wire: On Thursday, the Biden administration agreed to put on hold plans for a double border wall that opponents claim would essentially obliterate a 51-year-old seaside park that represents goodwill between the United States and Mexico.

Before deciding on a wall design for Friendship Park, which then-first lady Pat Nixon opened in 1971, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus stated that he wanted to hear community concerns. San Diego and Tijuana were once freely accessible to park visitors, but over the past 15 years, access from the United States has increasingly decreased and has been completely cut off for more than two years.

Magnus, a former Tucson, Arizona, police chief who assumed office in December, ordered the pause a week after Friends of Friendship Park met with Border Patrol officials to ask for a 120-day halt to construction, which was expected to begin shortly.

“We have heard concerns about the project as currently planned, and it is important to me to be responsive to the local community on this issue,” Magnus said. “I look forward to continued conversations with the community regarding this project during the pause.”

Magnus said the public would have access to the park at least two days a month but offered no other details.

Its design has not been made public but Friends of Friendship Park said Border Patrol officials told the group last week that there would be two 30-foot-high (9.1-meter-tall) tightly spaced steel bollards, like much of the hundreds of miles of wall that were erected during Donald Trump’s presidency. Currently a double wall in Friendship Park is shorter or easier to see through.

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Views from Tijuana would be severely diminished, the Rev. John Fanestil of Friends of Friendship Park said at a news conference last week.

“We view the current proposal as a nail in the coffin of Friendship Park,” he said.

On Thursday, Fanestil applauded the construction pause as “a step in the right direction” but Friends of Friendship Park said opening the park two days a month the minimum that CBP pledged would be inadequate for a binational garden of native plants, cross-border religious services and other community events.

The National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents agents, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Joe Biden halted construction on border walls, one of Trump’s highest domestic priorities, immediately upon taking office, but has allowed work in very limited circumstances. Last week, the administration said it was filling four gaps of an incomplete Trump-era wall in Yuma, Arizona, which has become one of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.


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