Democrats call on Trump to halt border wall construction amid pandemic

Democrats call on Trump to halt border wall construction amid pandemic

13:53 - Dozens of congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to halt all construction on President Trump's signature border wall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter spearheaded by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the lawmakers warn that "continuing border wall construction places local communities at unnecessary risk" and urge Trump officials to "immediately" stop all border wall construction.

More than two dozen Democratic senators and 66 representatives signed the letter, which was sent Wednesday to Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, as well as Reps. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) and Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), members of House Democratic leadership, among others.

“It is dangerous and unacceptable for border wall construction to continue during this public health crisis,” Cuellar said in a statement. “As medical experts and the Center for Disease Control [and Prevention] implore Americans to stay at home, construction crews continue to work in close quarters, jeopardizing the health of our border communities. This is a public health threat and it must be stopped.”

States across the country, including those along the southern border such as California and Arizona, have shut down schools, restaurants and other nonessential businesses in an attempt to curb the spread of the outbreak. This has caused many construction sites to be shut down, though some construction at the border, such as in Arizona, has continued after being labeled essential.

Trump has maintained that the continuation of border wall construction is important, saying that the wall is keeping undocumented immigrants who have potentially contracted the virus from entering the country. But Democrats counter that continuing with construction raises other health concerns.

"Continuation of construction only exacerbates the public health risks for those living at the southern border, detracting from our national efforts against fighting this virus," the letter from Democrats states.

"At this juncture, the priority of the United States must be to stop the spread of COVID-19. The continuation of wall construction compromises those efforts," it adds.