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See for yourself: Border wall construction is happening in South Texas

Until recent months, we could say that not one inch of new border wall had come to the Rio Grande Valley. But like COVID-19 or murder hornets, the worst has been saved for 2020, and now miles of the border wall are rising in South Texas. The administration is moving full-speed ahead to make good on its promise of 450 completed miles by November, election time.

In the last few years, Congress, with bipartisan support, allocated enough funds for over 90 miles to wall off the rest of my home: Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Throw in Eminent Domain (the government’s authority to take private land for public use) and the Real ID Act of 2005 (which grants the Executive broad authority to waive dozens of federal laws, many designed to protect the environment), and you have the perfect storm for rapid construction. See the waiver authority mapped out below to get an idea of what we’re looking at.

General Reference Map to DHS Waivers Issued Construction (Ken Madsen, 2020). These zones where dozens of laws are waived indicate areas of planned border wall construction

My long fight against the wall really began in 2006 after the Secure Fence Act passed in Congress. One of the first papers I wrote in a high school technical writing class was about the waste that 700 miles of border wall would bring to my home and border communities like it. These walls were erected in many cities across the RGV, such as Brownsville, Texas, seen in the map above on the far right and below from the international bridge to Matamoros.

Photo of the present wall taken from the Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, MX

Several years before 2006, my mother, because she had no one else to care for me, would take me to her undergraduate biology classes at the (then) University of Texas at Brownsville. This meant I could also join her in labs, where I explored the greatest birding and butterfly sanctuaries in the world with her. It was here by the Rio Grande that I fell in love with my home and all the beauty it had to offer.

Now, 12 years later I am documenting more construction. All at once, and in several locations throughout the Valley— Hidalgo, Progreso, Fronton, and McAllen (there’s probably more)— wall construction is continuing in a blitz. All of it under the cover of COVID.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Border Wall construction in Hidalgo, TX (May 2020)

Border wall construction near Donna and Progreso, TX (May 2020)

Border wall construction near Donna and Progreso, TX (May 2020)

Border wall construction near Donna and Progreso, TX (May 2020)

Border wall construction near Donna and Progreso, TX (May 2020)

Border wall construction near Donna and Progreso, TX (May 2020)

With the fight having lasted so long, these images are heartbreaking. It is even more difficult to watch the destruction around precious sites like the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge and cemeteries adjacent to the levee, where construction zones are being prepped. Congress has explicitly carved out the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge from demolition, and yet Customs and Border Protection (CBP) insists on placing the wall just beside this ecological gem, violating the spirit of this exemption.

Future border wall enforcement zone clearing (left) adjacent to the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge (right)

Cemetery near Donna & Progreso Wall Construction (levee on the left)

In recent years, my role at TCRP has been to organize “know your rights” seminars, support local coalitions, among other tasks to cancel this wall. Now I will be adding to my to-do list: documenting the destruction Trump’s wall construction brings to our community.

Make no mistake: we will still fight and organize against the wall, even as the pandemic rages on. We will also show the world what happens when we let xenophobic and racist ideas grip our highest forms of government.

This blog is a small start. You can help us out by sharing these photos and more to come as these attacks on our border communities continue.

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