SAN DIEGO — Local and national leaders are pushing Governor Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden to stop construction on the new walls going up at Friendship Park.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the two new walls will make room for future access. The wall at Friendship Park between San Diego and Tijuana has been a contentious issue for decades.
People with the group, Friends of Friendship Park, held a press conference to garner state and national support Friday morning.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Board Chair of The California Endowment said, "Where is the courage and humanity of our nation’s political leaders? Building two thirty-foot walls on the site of Friendship Park makes absolutely no sense."
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA, 52nd district) and supporters of Friendship Park said that former first lady, Pat Nixon, who inaugurated Friendship Park in 1971, would be disappointed with what's become of the binational park along the US - Mexico border.
"She said that she hoped that there would never be a wall there. And what do we have today? These really awful walls and they want to continue to build them. We don't need this wall. This wall does nothing for us here in San Diego. There's no reason for the Trump wall and there's no reason for the Biden Administration to put up this Trump wall," Vargas said.
For decades, Friendship Park has been known as a gathering spot where families and friends could meet from the United States and Mexico. In recent years, access to the area has been controlled and monitored by border patrol agents.
Friends of Friendship Park said access is more restricted than ever and more walls will only hurt. That's why supporters of Friendship Park said they gathered Friday morning to call on Newsom and Biden to act.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño added to her call to President Biden, "Keep your promise. No more border walls."
State Assemblymember David Alvarez also took to the podium in support of Friendship Park. "This is an embarrassment quite honestly, that we have to do this and we have to shame our federal government," Alvarez said.
Customs and Border Protection responded to CBS 8's request for comment with a statement that said,
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced a new path forward on January 17, 2023, for the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Friendship Circle Project to replace deteriorated primary and secondary border fence located adjacent to Friendship Circle in San Diego, California. Construction to replace the existing secondary fence began on February 13, 2023. During the additional stakeholder outreach period in late 2022, it was determined that access to Friendship Park was the top priority for the local community. As such, it was a high priority to CBP to begin construction to allow for future access to the Park.
These initial construction actions will not impact the Friendship Park Circle or Binational Garden located adjacent to the primary fence and east of the Friendship Park. CBP is in the process of modifying the contract for the replacement of the primary fence, based on the approved path forward, which includes modifying the height at the approximately 60 feet adjacent to Friendship Park to 18 feet tall. USBP will coordinate with stakeholders to salvage any native and protected plants within the Binational Garden prior to construction activities for the primary fence. In addition, USBP remains committed to restoring the Binational Garden following the completion of construction activities.
The replacement of the primary and secondary fencing in the Friendship Park area will provide much needed improvements to the border infrastructure and will allow visitors on the U.S. side to access the Park, once construction is complete assuming it is operationally safe to do so, which has been closed for many years due to the condition of the existing fencing. This will allow visitors on the U.S. side of the border to communicate with friends and family located in Mexico on the other side of the primary barrier as in years past."
WATCH RELATED: Construction on a 30-foot border wall starts at Friendship Park (March 2023).