Amer­i­cans who live near bor­der say Trump’s wall is un­wel­come

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

ALL ALONG the wind­ing Rio Grande, the peo­ple who live in this bustling, fer­tile re­gion where the US bor­der meets the Gulf of Mex­ico never quite un­der­stood how Don­ald Trump’s great wall could ever be much more than cam­paign rhetoric.

Erect­ing a con­crete bar­rier across the en­tire 1,954-mile fron­tier with Mex­ico, they know, col­lides head-on with mul­ti­ple re­al­i­ties: the ge­ol­ogy of the river val­ley, fierce lo­cal re­sis­tance and the im­mense cost. An elec­tron­i­cally for­ti­fied ‘vir­tual wall’ with sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy that in­cludes nigh­tand-day video cam­eras, teth­ered ob­ser­va­tion bal­loons and high­fly­ing drones makes a lot more sense to peo­ple here. It is al­ready in wide use and ex­pand­ing.

If a 30- to 40-foot con­crete wall is a panacea for il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, as Trump in­sisted dur­ing the cam­paign, the lo­cals are not con­vinced. And few were sur­prised when the pres­i­dent-elect seemed to soften his po­si­tion five days af­ter the elec­tion, say­ing that the wall could in­clude some fenc­ing.

“The wall is not go­ing to stop any­one,” said Jorge Gar­cia, who ex­pected to lose ac­cess to most of his 30-acre river­side ranch af­ter the US Bor­der Fence Act was en­acted a decade ago.

Un­der the law, 652 miles of bor­der bar­rier were built, mostly in Ari­zona. The 110 miles of fences and for­ti­fied lev­ees that went up in Texas are not con­tigu­ous but bro­ken lines, some as much as a mile and a half from the river.

Eight years af­ter govern­ment sur­vey­ors marked Gar­cia’s land, he and his wife, Aleida, are still wait­ing to see if the Bor­der Pa­trol will sever their prop­erty.

“This lets me know that when­ever they want to build the wall, they can,” said Aleida, hold­ing up a tax bill that shows the nom­i­nally ex­pro­pri­ated sliver of prop­erty.

If a fence or wall goes up, the cou­ple will be paid US$8,300. So far, the Gar­cias and the rest of the vil­lage of Los Ebanos have been spared be­cause the ero­sion-prone clay soil is sim­ply too un­sta­ble, she be­lieves.

TREATY

Ge­ol­ogy con­spires against wall-build­ing up and down the Rio Grande Val­ley. So does a boundary wa­ter treaty with Mex­ico and en­dan­gered-species laws. Cat­walks and tun­nels had to be built into ex­ist­ing fences to ac­com­mo­date en­dan­gered ocelots and jaguarundi, two species of wild­cat.

“The wall might make mid-Amer­ica feel safer, but for those of us that live on the bor­der, it’s not mak­ing us feel any safer when we know that peo­ple can go over it, around it, un­der it and through it,” said Mon­ica Weis­berg-Ste­wart, se­cu­rity ex­pert for the Texas Bor­der Coali­tion, a con­sor­tium of re­gional lead­ers.

AP PHOTO/CAROLYN KASTER

United States Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump at the Trump Na­tional Golf Club, Bed­min­ster in New Jersey, on Satur­day.

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