I attended the No Border Wall Rally in Mission tonight and found it very informative.

There are very strong local concerns about the wall, and for reasons other than my own. I’ll summarize some of them here, keeping in mind that my biggest opposition is other than these listed.

Local Reason #1: The Environment. A woman who runs one of the local wildlife sanctuaries spoke and the summary was that a wall of the kind promised, will destroy the ecosystem and will likely mean the extinction of some species.

Local Reason #2:
The Economy. We are among the poorest communities in the U.S. Mission isn’t in my county, Cameron County, but its economic situation is very similar. Cameron County was recently declared the poorest county in America. Putting up a wall on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande will eliminate tourist dollars coming into the region (tourism is the fourth largest component of the economy, and one of our best ways to get dollars from outside the Valley into the local economy).

Local Reason #3: The River. If we build a wall on our side of the river, we give it away. People live near water for many reasons, and we live on the Rio Grande for all of those reasons. If we lose the river, we lose irrigation for agriculture, we lose our drinking water supply, we lose many forms of recreation. The Rio Grande is (I’m thinking here) probably the third or fourth most important waterway in the U.S. behind the Mississippi, the Missouri, and maybe the Colorado. To build a wall on our side of it is to give it away to Mexico.

Local reason #4: The Land / The History. Our meeting was held at La Lomita Church, a historic church that many people here consider to be sacred ground because of their personal history with the church. This church will be in this no man’s land between the wall and the river if the wall gets built. The most touching moment of the evening for me was after the speeches were given, while a Mariachi band was leading us in a procession down to the river, a few of us straggled behind because we wanted to see the church (I live in Brownsville, an hour away, and hadn’t yet seen it). As I walked quietly into the tiny church, I saw an old, dark-skinned man, equally humble as the church, kneeling in prayer. This church, his parish, is only one of thousands of historic sites that will be lost if the wall is built. The current plan will cut off at least 35 homes, just in Mission (a very small site compared with El Paso, or even Brownsville), not to mention so many restaurants and public sites. Three families in Mission have held property extending from the river for over 250 years. The river is what makes that land useful, valuable, and meaningful. If we build the wall, we lose all that historic, economic, and cultural value.

Local Reason #5: The Meaning. Any honest person can tell you that this wall is about keeping out Mexicans. Here in the RGV, we don’t want to do that. We are one community, much like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Each border city has a twin, so much so that they often share a name (Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Nogales and Nogales). We are one family, and a wall will either separate us because it works, or it will separate us because it was supposed to have worked. Whether it succeeds or not, the message, “You are not welcome here,” is being understood already. I think we feel something like a bridegroom bringing home his bride to meet his family and having to constantly apologize and make up for the offenses she endures at the hands of his relatives. Our Uncle Sam is yelling all sorts of obscenities at the people we love and we are doing our best to say, “I know he’s impossible to ignore, but please believe us, we really do love you.”

If you are in favor of the Border Wall, please… and I ask you with quiet sincerity… please consider us who live here and don’t want it. We are not extremists, we are not clueless, we are not biased. There really is a better way for you to get what you want. This will hurt us much more than it will ever help you.

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