Texas opposition to the border wall

Newsweek/MSNBC: The fence is coming, and it’s causing Texas-size problems for the folks of one city in particular.

For five generations, the Benavidez family has lived on a seven-acre plot of serene farmland near the U.S.-Mexico border west of Brownsville, Texas. They’ve harvested cotton and squash and raised goats and pigs. They’ve helped sculpt the levee that snakes across the rear of the property. They’ve given birth there, married there and died there. Their connection to the land runs so deep that they can’t imagine parting with even a piece of it. So two weeks ago, when federal employees arrived asking to purchase a rectangular slice abutting the levee for $4,100 to make way for a border fence aimed at deterring illegal immigrants, they refused. “I don’t want to scare you,” Idalia Benavidez, 77, says one of the employees told her, “but whether you agree or not, the government’s going to make the fence.” If the Feds get their way, an 18-foot-high barrier will soon traverse the Benavidez property, cutting off their cows from a pasture south of the fence’s proposed path. “It’s going to be ugly,” says Benavidez. Worse still, she predicts, “it’s not going to work.”

That mostly sums up the current sentiment along the Texas border. But the Brownsville area in particular—where a unique alliance of politicians, business leaders, farmers, environmental activists, church groups and ordinary citizens has challenged the fence—has become the epicenter of the fight. On April 28 many of those constituencies plan to air their grievances at a congressional field hearing in the city designed to examine the fence’s impact. Opponents decry “the wall,” as they call it, as a waste of money better spent on more border personnel and surveillance technology. They lament what they consider outsiders’ misunderstanding of south Texas culture, with its Anglo-Mexican blend and its view of the Rio Grande as a meeting point rather than a dividing line. And they argue that it will crimp the economy and trample landowners’ rights. . .

The Rio Grande “as a meeting point rather than a dividing line” — that seems pretty profound and true to me. That was one of the many things I loved about Texas when I lived there, it was an in-between place, a place where Anglo and Mexican culture met and blended. Sometimes the blending was lumpy, like cake dough that’s not stirred enough, other times the mix was just perfect and became something unique and special that was better than the sum of its parts.

The wall will hurt things a lot. The blending will still happen of course. You can’t stop culture and people from coming in and out, wall or no wall, but it will create more resentments and hurt. And poor folks will suffer needlessly. Families will be even more isolated and more migrants will end up dying after taking extreme measures to get across.

I am proud that my church works with a sister church in Brownsville to help the undocumented folks coming from Mexico, but I wish there was more that could be done to mend this hurt. I am glad though that the folks in Brownsville (on the US side) are speaking out against the wall and in support of their brothers and sisters on the other side of the wall.

2 thoughts on “Texas opposition to the border wall”

  1. Walls to separate people have been built before. The best-known wall of the twentieth century was erected in a few days in Berlin in 1961. That wall was built to keep some people in and to keep others out, and was a blight not only in Berlin, but in the psyche of the German people for almost 30 years. During that time, at least 200 people were murdered by East German snipers, and countless thousands of families were torn apart and lives ruined. But who could blame the East Germans for that — what good is a wall if you don’t enforce the separation it stands for?

    In what was, for me, a chance glimpse of a confluence of history, I was present in West Berlin on November 9, 1989, when East Berliners finally crossed the wall an a euphoric night of freedom and jubilation. Within days, much of the wall was down and within weeks, German reunification had begun. There are still pieces of the wall throughout Berlin, scattered monuments to repression and ignorance and, at the same time, to perseverance of the human soul.

    Anyone who favors an American wall should at least do themselves, and the rest of us, the favor of traveling to Berlin to see what the wall there accomplished. Go to Checkpoint Charley and the museum there, stroll along the hunks of the wall that still remain. If you still think you want to have a wall of our own, I suggest you’ve got a bigger problem than simply wanting to control immigration.

  2. Reid’s comparison is very apt. I fear that just as the US has joined in the sorry list of countries that torture, it will also become one, like East Germany, with an ugly scar of a wall that symbolizes fear and hate, and succeeds only in further destroying our values.

    I hope they can stop it until Bush is out of office. Maybe then we can begin to restore some sanity to our policies.

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