LatinaLista — Residents in the Texas Rio Grande Valley have been fighting two wars: the war in Iraq that has taken many of their young people from the region and the war against the Department of Homeland Security which is wanting their private property to build a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.
Unlike some other portions of the U.S.-Mexico border, residents along the Texas border aren’t willing to hand over their property so easily to the government. They want more time to try to convince the government that alternative ideas can be just as effective, if not more so, in creating a secure but less disruptive barrier between the two countries.
One Texas border property where Department of Homeland Security wants to construct a fence.
Yet the government has tired of talk, and from an administration that set the standard for pre-emptive strikes, the Department of Homeland Security is attempting to circumvent the landowners and claim the land in the name of national security.
It has not made any of the affected border communities fans of the government. In fact, it has caused so many negative feelings towards Washington that an us-versus-them feeling has emerged along the Texas border.
When a situation escalates to that point, it doesn’t bode well for either side.
To make matters worse, the Associated Press reports this afternoon that a federal judge has ordered 10 border property owners to make their lands available to the government for 180 days for surveying purposes.
However, the same judge denied the government the right to take the land without a hearing, which it wanted to do.
As this struggle between the U.S. government and the Texas border communities play out daily, President Bush will deliver in his State of the Union address tonight on the “progress” DHS has made in securing the border.
In his speech about it, the President plans to say in part that:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is on track to complete 370 miles of pedestrian fencing along the southwest border by the end of calendar year 2008. As of this month, we have completed a total of 165 miles of pedestrian fence along the southwest border, giving us a total of 290 miles of pedestrian and vehicle fence already in place at the border. We expect to have 670 total miles of pedestrian and vehicle fence by the end of 2008, and have begun obtaining land to make this a reality.
If people only knew how the government is obtaining this land.
Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada
One person is determined to let people know.
Texas border native and mayor of Brownsville, Texas, Pat Ahumada, has been a vocal critic of the government’s strong-arm tactics in getting their way along the Texas-Mexico border.
In the following post special to Latina Lista, Mayor Ahumada addresses the issue that is #1 with his constituents.
Unfortunately, the proponents of the border fence between Texas and Mexico, particularly mid-America, they have no clue as to how it will affect all the communities along the Rio Grande River.
Our heritage, culture, traditions, commerce and good neighbor policy will be affected in an adverse way. Already the resentment by our neighbors is becoming evident and those of us with a Mexican heritage are resentful towards those who are promoting what we believe to be a racial divide under the pretext of securing our border.
No one is against enforcing our laws against illegal immigration, drug trafficking and fighting terrorism, but it does not make sense to force a fence no one wants in this region and by the Department of Homeland Security’s own admission can be breached in 3 to 7 minutes.
We also have the Gulf of Mexico, which can be used to bypass the fence. As Mayor of Brownsville, we support alternatives to the proposed fence that are feasible and less costly, but to date DHS refuses to discuss with us these alternatives that can accomplish their mission and spare us from the devastating adverse effects on our way of life.
DHS’ refusal to work with local leaders along the border goes to show how our federal government can turn against its own people and suspend our rights and liberties as they did to the Japanese in World War II.
We have proposed to build a weir damn along the river, which will raise the water level from 123 to 126 feet above sea level, widen the river by 300 feet and back up the river for 42 miles — in essence creating a virtual fence that can easily be patrolled with high-speed boats, sophisticated electronic equipment and boots on the ground to deter any illegal activity along the border.
It also offers many different economic opportunities to develop the river for tourism. This proposal is at a cost of $40.0 million, which is less costly and more effective than the border fence being proposed.
The other alternative is building the fence along our levees, which will in effect reinforce our levees without adversely affecting the flood plain as the proposed fence will do or affecting our ecological corridor and historical corridor along the river, which generates tourism to our area.
In my opinion, the fence is unAmerican and symbolizes everything contrary to what America is all about. America should enforce its laws and not blame us for the historical failure to do so.
Now, the federal government wants a quick fix to the lack of past enforcement at our expense, but the quick fix is costly and not a good proposal to provide the security it seeks to provide.
The proposed fence is promoting a false sense of security and is being divisive.
I urge all my fellow Americans who want a fence to build a fence around their communities and see what will happen. Their community will die.
America needs to continue to be the beacon of fairness and justice and not the totalitarian government it is demonstrating to be with this issue against its people on the southwest border.
We are not at war with Mexico and no terrorist attacked us on 9/11/2001 that came from Mexico.
Mayor of Brownsville, Texas