Anti-Wall Activists Stage Weekend of Protests

The proposed wall would cut through a wildlife refuge

photo Scott Nicol

The Trump administration is planning to break ground on the border wall this year, pending budgetary negotiations, in the middle of the Santa Ana Widlife Refuge in the lower Rio Grande valley of south Texas.

The new wall would be built on top of an existing levee, leading to increased flooding, trapped and drowned wildlife, flood water bouncing back into Mexico violating international river treaties, and US private property being cut off from the rest of the country.

The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge has been called the "crown jewel" of the national refuge system, and is one of the best places in the nation to view hundreds of bird and butterfly species.

Green Jay, photo Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend, in two days of events, up to 1,000 local clergy, indigenous groups, human rights activists and environmentalists from around the country marched through the refuge, forming a human wall of solidarity along the levee.

photo Leslie Gower

As protesters filed onto the levee, seasoned activists and brand new-comers chatted and agreed: this was a warm-up action. If and when the bulldozers and construction crews arrive, we will be back to peacefully resist.

photo Southwest Environmental Center

New York Times

"Last month, Marianna Wright, the executive director of the privately owned National Butterfly Center here, discovered survey stakes on the property marking out a 150-foot-wide swath of land.

Ms. Wright later encountered a work crew cutting down trees and brush along a road through the center. The workers said they had been hired by United States Customs and Border Protection to clear the land.

“You mean my land?” Ms. Wright asked, before kicking them out.

A few days after that encounter, she was visited by a border official who informed her that the crew had a right to be on the land and would be returning — next time accompanied by armed Border Patrol agents.

She said she also learned, for the first time, that a section of the proposed wall on the border with Mexico — and a pair of parallel roads on either side of it — would run through the butterfly center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and study of wild butterflies.. The wall’s placement would cut off two-thirds of the center’s property, leaving a 70-acre no man’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande."

USA Today

"Among the speakers at a rally following the march was U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes a portion of Hidalgo County.

“It would be a huge failure for American history,” he said of the wall. “We would be on the wrong side of history. The international community is watching us. I think it would be a shameful act if we go through with this.”

“There are problems with immigration,” said [Father Roy Snipes, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church]. “We don’t think we know how to solve them all. But we do think a wall is obnoxious and obscene in all kind of ways.""

Associated Press

"“We might seem small and insignificant. Maybe we are,” said Anthoney Saenz, a 19-year-old native of the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost point of Texas and a region where Trump has proposed putting 60 miles of wall as part of a $1.6 billion proposal. “But when our voices come together,” Saenz said, “when we band together as a community to try to get a voice out there, we have to hope we get heard.”"

Texas Observer

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two waivers in April 2008 that allowed the agency to bypass 36 federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the compatibility determination from federal refuge managers.

DHS can issue the waivers because of a 2005 law that allows the DHS secretary to bypass federal law in the name of national security. The Trump administration is now invoking that same authority. On August 1, DHS issued a waiver to expedite the construction of 14 miles of border barriers and roads in San Diego, California.

DHS will soon do the same for Texas.

At Santa Ana, an 18-foot concrete and steel wall would slice through the 2,088-acre refuge, separating the visitors center from the walking trails, observation tower and wetlands.

“A little refuge like Santa Ana just can’t take a blow like that and still be functional,” [wildlife biologist Ken] Merritt said. “Of all places to put the wall, Santa Ana seems like the worst.”

Sierra Club

"“We as birders are extremely concerned about this wall,” said Jeffrey Gordon, president of the American Birding Association. “People may not understand, but this is one of the prime birding hot spots in the entire country. What would history buffs think if they were going to put a wall across Gettysburg? What would sports fans think if they were going to wall off Fenway Park? It would be just a calamitous loss.”

Often referred to as the “jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” Santa Ana is home to over 400 bird species—several dozen of which can’t be seen anywhere else in the United States—and 450 plant species, including a rare stand of threatened Sabal palm trees. With 165,000 annual visitors, the refuge is at the center of a more than $400-million-per-year eco-tourism industry in the Rio Grande Valley."

Dallas News (editorial)

"The damage a wall would do to the refuge is incalculable. The proposed route, three miles of levee flanking the Rio Grande, would gouge a broad corridor through the wildlife habitat. Centuries-old bird migratory patterns would be disrupted. Some animals would be cut off from the river, their only water source. Others, unable to seek higher ground during peak flooding, would drown."

Save Santa Ana (facebook page)