Super Tuesday for the Border Wall

Seven Texas border cities pass anti-wall resolutions in a single day

By Daniel Blue Tyx

September 7, 2017


Photo by Daniel Blue Tyx

Seven cities across Texas's Rio Grande Valley approved anti–border wall resolutions Tuesday in a unified show of grassroots opposition by the communities that would be most impacted by the wall’s construction. As environmental and immigrant-rights activists scrambled from one city hall to another at meetings that lasted from noon to after 9 P.M., McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, Palmview, and Sullivan City all unanimously approved resolutions. They joined the cities of Brownsville, Mission, La Joya, and Weslaco—as well as the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court—which had already gone on the record against President Trump’s planned wall.   

According to preliminary Customs and Border Protection maps, 60 of 74 new miles of wall would be built in the Rio Grande Valley—a region that stretches 150 miles upriver from Brownsville and is home to 1.4 million residents—if the Senate approves the $1.6 billion in border wall funding that the House passed in July.  

In McAllen, the region’s second-largest city after Brownsville, about 50 red-shirted representatives from La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), an immigrant-rights nonprofit, joined about a dozen volunteers from the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club chapter, many wearing white “No Border Wall” T-shirts, for a special city commission meeting called to consider the resolution. The audience erupted in applause as each commissioner, as well as Mayor Jim Darling, spoke in turn to explain their reasons for opposing the wall. 

“I’m not against Border Patrol or border security, but the need for the wall is more political than reality,” Darling told the commissioners. “The actual numbers of people coming here illegally, other than asylum-seekers, has gone down.” 

The proposed border wall is nothing short of an attempt to undo local efforts to protect our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, our families, and ourselves, forcing millions to live in fear.

City commissioner Veronica Vela-Whitacre emphasized the wall’s negative effects on the city’s cultural and economic ties with Mexico. Recently, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce launched an “Amigos Always” advertising campaign in Mexico to combat a sharp decline after the election in cross-border tourism, which is a major sector of the local economy. “People from Mexico shop in our community, and they educate their children in our community,” she said. “We need to continue that relationship and be strong advocates.” 

The vote was taken after about 10 minutes of discussion; the result was met with a standing ovation in the room.

When the Alamo City Commission met later in the day to consider their own resolution, a framed poster on the wall behind them bore the city’s logo: a silhouette of a soaring hawk above the words “Alamo: Refuge to the Valley.” The slogan references the city’s most famous destination, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which draws 165,000 visitors annually and provides habitat for more than 400 species of birds as well as the endangered ocelot and jaguarondi wildcats. If the border wall is constructed as planned atop the levee that runs along the refuge’s northern boundary—some two miles north of the Rio Grande—it could cut off all public access.   

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, City Manager Luciano Ozuna, Jr. read the proposed resolution out loud into a microphone. “Whereas the City of Alamo is the proud home of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge,” he began, before continuing a litany of reasons for the city’s opposition. These included the facts that “the overwhelming majority of city of Alamo residents adamantly oppose border walls,” “the city of Alamo along with other border cities consistently ranks among the safest cities in the United States,” and “the ecotourism economy accounts for an estimated $463 million per year in the Rio Grande Valley and depends on high-quality wildlife habitat and people’s access to that habitat.”   

Loud applause broke out when the resolution passed unanimously. One resident supporting the resolution was Sarah Monsivais, a speech therapist who lives five minutes from the wildlife refuge, which she visited with her family this past weekend. She held a handwritten sign that read “The Wall Affects U.S. All,” with the letters U and S colored in red, white, and blue. “I can tell you firsthand that the wall isn’t needed,” she said. “Alamo is a safe community. As someone who lives here, who’s grown up here, it’s a direct insult.”

Nearby, Juanita Valdez-Cox, LUPE’s executive director, told me that she was attending her third city commission meeting of the day. “We hope that with all these cities acting together, we’ll have an impact,” she said. “Why is Trump so insistent on a border wall that cities and counties are telling him is not needed? It’s not needed, and he needs to listen.”