In July of 2021 we learned that there are more butterflies in the southern tip of Texas than anywhere else in the U.S. butterflies love the warmth (in fact they can’t fly if the temperature is below 70°).
We also learned that construction of the wall, temporarily suspended, were killing the habitat by destroying the trees caterpillars eat and the plants on which butterflies lay their eggs. Luciano at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas, who voted for President Trump, grieved what he sees happening to the ecosystem.
“Future generations will laugh at us for building a wall between us and our only water source, the Rio Grande,” Luciano said. The wall also blocks wildlife from access to the water, as well as disrupting migratory patterns.
What about drugs? Luciano said we know that the drugs coming into the country are coming through the ports of entry. There’s too many to be carried in the pockets of immigrants coming across the desert. They’re coming on pallets. Walls won’t touch the drug flow.
We took some time to visit the wall construction that is halted. We saw a section of the wall that was two tenths of a mile with nothing for miles on either side. It’s hard to understand what purpose it serves.
I fail to see the point of this.
We saw several short, stand-alone sections like this. Totally ineffective. Even if complete (a financial and logistical impossibility), it’s “A fifth century solution to a 21st century issue,” one of the locals said to me. There are far better high tech tools for border security.
A majority of US citizens don’t want an ugly wall that keeps both humans and animals from their only source of life-giving water. “You’re building a wall between you and your only water source?” The local shakes her head.
The wall is not the will of the people: https://news.gallup.com/poll/246455/solid-majority-opposes-new-construction-border-wall.aspx. There’s a human and natural cost. This is why so many landowners, politicians of both parties, environmentalists, law enforcement, pastors and more oppose it.
A majority of Texans oppose the wall too. The border is a river. 95% of the adjoining land (1200 miles) is private property. An overwhelming majority oppose the federal government seizing private property to build a wall.
The Rio Grande Valley is at the crossroads of the richest biological environment in North America. It has the largest concentration of butterflies in the U.S., a stopping place for the annual migration to Mexico and Central America. Wall construction is destroying that environment, tress and plants where they eat and lay eggs. This is one small example of the cost.
Nevertheless a small percentage of Texans (who don’t live there) have donated $450K to the wall. A candle in the wind, given that existing Texas border wall cost $26 million per mile to build, and will cost way more in today’s dollars (estimates are around $42M/mile). So those donations will build about 63 feet of border wall.
The construction equipment and supplies sit where they were left when construction ended months ago.
A few miles west, another section of the wall .25 miles long stands alone, easy to talk around. The wall is a 5th century solution for a 21st century problem,” Luciano told us. He said he favored high tech security.
We visited with quite a few border patrol officers. Every single one was friendly and helpful. One went out of his way to help us navigate a flooded street. They seemed clear about their responsibilities and the limits of their authority. They clearly had their own thoughts about the realities of immigration.
We did some volunteer work for Team Brownsville, who provide humanitarian assistance to people on both sides of the border seeking asylum.
According to U.S. law, people can present themselves at the border and request asylum. If a judge determines their request is legit, a court date is set. These folks are here legally. They have followed the law. Border Patrol gets them to the judge and once they have a court date, gets them to the bus station.
Team Brownsville meets people at the bus station and helps connect them with food, hygiene items, and assistance connecting with friends and family in the States while they await their court date. Catholic Charities does similar work in McAllen, under the leadership of Sister Normal Pimientiel.
Caly Flores with Puentes de Cristo (Bridges for Christ) helps people on both sides of the border, while also doing case management for people in the colonies. These were just some of the ministries we encountered.
The Valley is an ethnically diverse slice of America. Mestizos, descendants of Spaniards, Germans, English, Native Americans and Africans brought here as slaves live side by side. Brownsville was voted on of the top 25 safest cities in America.
We met with Dr. Jay Alanis, who has retired from LSPS, moving back to his ancestral home here in the Rio Grande Valley. He will be serving St. John Lutheran Church in San Juan (just east of McAllen) and doing continuing teaching.
The majority of people we asked had no desire for an “expensive, ugly and ineffective wall.” Luciano shook his head, “I believe in personal property rights. The government is taking people’s land. Again. The wall is all about politics.”