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Row, row, row your boat, gently down the border

15 July 2007

Ryan Holeywell in Saturday’s McAllen Monitor

ROMA — About 100 people came out Saturday to the scenic bluffs overlooking the Rio Grande to demonstrate their opposition to the border fence, arguing it will ultimately be ineffective at addressing immigration and only cause grave harm to animal habitats along the river’s shores.

The event was highlighted by a trip some 40 rowers in kayaks and canoes took along the river from nearby Fronton to Roma.

The rowers’ 5-mile journey was meant to symbolize that people in the Rio Grande Valley don’t want a barrier that could interfere with the river since so many people use it for recreation and it is important to the local environment, said Betty Perez, one of the event’s organizers. A similar event was held Saturday evening in Brownsville.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to build 270 miles of fence and 200 miles of vehicle barriers along the border by the end of next year. Of the 125 miles of fencing planned for Texas, most would be in the Valley, according to a map recently leaked to the media.

“The Valley is really united on this,” Perez said of opposition to the fence. “Nobody wants it for different reasons. We understand how stupid putting up a wall is.”

As boaters arrived in Roma, protesters carried signs with slogans such as “Say No to the Wall of Shame” and “WMDs — Walls of Mass Destruction.” They chanted “No wall!” from their perch on the bluffs, which overlook Mexico’s Ciudad Miguel Alemán.

Wenche Garcia of Roma was among those who showed up to greet the rowers.

As an amateur archaeologist, he said he worries that constructing a fence in the area could destroy artifacts of indigenous people.

Like many who oppose construction of the fence, John Martin said he instead supports establishing a so-called “virtual fence” that relies on technology and personnel to detect illegal aliens.

Martin said he understands that something needs to be done to address the threat of terrorism, but a virtual fence would be more effective than the current plan.

“This (fence) is a stone-age solution to a 21st century problem,” he said.

Nancy Brown of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it’s hard for her to have a definitive opinion on the fence since some details are unknown, but a barrier could harm animal habitats, affect their migration patterns and interfere with their genetics by splitting populations in two.

“If you’re a tortoise and you run into eight miles of fence, you have a problem,” Brown said.

Animals don’t adapt to great environmental change quickly enough to survive the changes a fence would cause, said Martin Hagne of the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco.

But some organizations say the border as it stands now is a security risk, and fences are a part of protecting the country and enforcing immigration laws.

Jonathan Reed, a spokesperson for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which opposes illegal immigration, said environmentalists should understand that the government would be able to evaluate and control the effect a fence would have on the environment.

“The amount of actual impact on the environment is much less than the hordes of migrants that come across and leave tons of trash everywhere,” Reed said.

The routes people take look like dumps.”


Wanna bet Mr. Reed ain’t from around Roma/Cd. Alemán?


No Border Wall is a coalition of those who oppose the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border because of the wide-ranging social, environmental, economic, and psychological destruction such a barrier will cause.

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