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Press Call: Border Wall Construction Threatens Livelihood and Health for Local Communities

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A recording of the call is available here

Earlier today, immigration justice advocates gathered on a press call to speak on their experiences as border residents and landowners fighting the administration’s attempts to take over the land and build its infamous wall. In the middle of a nation gripped by multiple crises including uprisings against racial injustice and a devastating pandemic, the President is choosing to focus on his insignificant border wall and anti-immigrant agenda.

While these border communities must combat the coronavirus crisis and ensure that their families are safe, they are simultaneously being dealt with an infringement on their property, drained local resources and lawsuits all at the hands of the administration, who focus is on its xenophobic abuse of power versus the needs and problems of the nation.

Melissa Cigarroa, No Border Wall Coalition and Rio Grande International Study Center, said, “The Inspector General of DHS excoriated Customs and Border Protection for continuing with a multibillion dollar project that they have not proven will work. Why would I give up my land and my property rights for a destructive  government boondoggle? When the government announced that they were going to come in and build a wall in Laredo, it tore at my heart. This is my community and the river is 100% our only source of drinking water; that river represents our source of life. They would threaten the sustainability of my community and the ability of my children to return from their studies in different places to come here to the city to raise their family. We won’t stand for it.”

Tricia Cortez, Executive Director, Rio Grande International Study Center, said, “The wall is an offensive and blatant theft of our land that will cut through our vibrant city, destroying private and public lands that include beautiful parks and trails, valuable public infrastructure, private homes, and historic landmarks. Of course we will rise up to defend our way of life. Our environment nonprofit formed in 1994, our mission and focus is the river, the Rio Grande and our environment. We, along with many other communities, depend entirely on this one river for our daily existence.  And that river is already an extremely distressed river system. The wall represents loss. Loss of place. The two contracts they just awarded in the last couple of months for about 31 miles worth of river would wall off our entire riverfront for the entire city. More importantly, it would take out a 150 foot wide section of river bank for security enforcement zones; that’s equivalent to a four lane highway.

All of these major investments the city has made over the last couple of decades to take advantage of this and build public parks and public nature trails for this magnificent resource we happen to have. And so to think all of this could be gone, it’s devastating. It’s why this community is so galvanized and  It’s why we are committed. We are not going to be intimidated by this administration and we’re not going to be intimidated by these announcements of contracts. They don’t even own the land for these 31 miles, yet they are awarding hundreds of millions of valuable taxpayer dollars to contractors to come into our community and destroy something that’s irreplaceable. And that’s offensive. And maybe there was a time in our history as Mexican Americans where that could happen and where it did happen, but we live in a different time and it’s not going to happen this time.”

Carlos Flores, Attorney at Whitworth Cigarroa, said, “The border wall is not a done deal. Government action must be rooted in the United States Constitution. Landowners in Laredo and Zapata are correct to challenge the constitutionality of Trump’s Executive Order and the federal government’s seizure of land in South Texas.”

Ricky Garza, said, “The federal government is powerful, but so are the people of South Texas. When families stand together in the streets and in the courts against the wall, we all win. No one should see their rights trampled to build a monument to racism, and we won’t stop fighting until we stop all construction and tear the wall down.”