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An online competition spurred by his proposal has launched a fierce debate among architects and border communities.
Christian Ramirez remembers what life was like before the border wall went up in San Diego. Growing up in San Ysidro, a neighborhood on the city’s southwestern corner, he regularly crossed into Mexico to pick up tacos and bring them back for picnics at Friendship Park, a small coastal area bisected by the border. But after 9/11, new security measures fortified the border wall and extended the barrier into the ocean. “An embrace at that part of the border has been reduced to pinkies touching each other at the border wall,” he said.
Now the park, which used to host bi-national religious masses, Christmas celebrations, and family reunions, is locked except for a few hours each weekend, during which federal agents monitor the crowd and people search through the metal grating for a glimpse of a loved one’s face on the other side.
As the director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, Ramirez works with 60 community organizations to strengthen oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency tasked with securing the nation’s borders. And so it was with dismay that he responded to news that a website is hosting a Donald Trump-inspired competition for border wall designs. “The sad reality is that the border region is still viewed as a barren land, with no history, no culture, not inhabited. And that has made this rhetoric of militarization and of iron-fisted policies acceptable as the mainstream narrative of the border region,” he said. “Unfortunately, this sort of contest is right up that alley.” […]