Friday, July 4, 2008

Protest the Border Wall July 12 at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas

What: A protest opposing the border wall at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas followed by a march on the Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court

When: Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Where: Beginning at the University of Texas Pan American Student Ballroom

Saturday’s activities will begin at 5pm for a rally at the University of Texas Pan America Student Ballroom in Edinburg. Speakers will address the crowd from 5:15 until 6pm. Protesters will then march to the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court (at the corner of Closer and Cano). At the courthouse members of the community will have the opportunity to speak out against the wall. Their comments will be videotaped, and DVDs of their comments will be given to the Hidalgo County Commissioners. The County Commissioners, led by Hidalgo County Judge JD Salinas, have agreed to incorporate the border wall into the county’s flood control levees.

Initiated by the No Border Wall Coalition, the protest is meant to raise local and national awareness of the vast opposition to the wall because of its potential to divide border communities, destroy homes and farms, devastate unique ecosystems, damage border economies, and undermine our flood control levees. Also of concern is the impact the wall will have on the border area’s relationship with Mexico. Many view the wall as racist, as no wall is being built on the Canadian border.

In Hidalgo County, the border wall has been linked to levee repairs. While no one in the Valley disputes the fact that our levees need repair, allowing the Department of Homeland Security to take them over and make them into a border wall is a terrible idea. There have been no studies on the safety, effectiveness, and environmental impacts of a combined levee/ border wall.

According to the No Border Wall Coalition, repairing the levees could require only three feet of earth and caliche in many places, while the levee/wall project calls for a solid 16 foot wall of concrete, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by Valley taxpayers. Initial estimates that levee-walls would cost $5 million per mile have ballooned to $12 million per mile, with Hidalgo County paying over $200 million in construction costs rather than $48 million. Rather than flood control, repairing the levees has become a means for the Department of Homeland Security to build piecemeal walls that do not match up with the section of the levees that are in need of repair.

The costs go beyond monetary for this region. DHS has initiated condemnation proceedings against hundreds of private landowners along the border. U.S. homes, farms, ranches, and businesses lie either in the path of the wall or on land that will be behind it, cut off from the rest of this country. Along the Rio Grande, a natural border in and of itself, farmers and ranchers could be prevented from accessing irrigation water. The wall is set to go through and literally divide the campus of the University of Texas in Brownsville. Firefighters and emergency crews will have difficulty reaching homes and people on the south side of the wall. Our community will be divided, not just from Mexico, but from neighbors and from free access to the river.

The levee-border wall will also do tremendous damage to the environment of the Rio Grande Valley. The first two sections of combined levee-border wall will bisect parts of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. They will destroy habitat that is critical to the endangered species and migratory birds that bring $125 million in ecotourism to the area each year.

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