December 12, 2007
Border fence protest in McAllen

May there be many more of these, until the message gets through that the border fence is a wasteful and destructive idea.

City business leaders had an unorthodox plan today to get residents to attend a federally sponsored town meeting on the planned fence along the U.S.-Mexico border: They sponsored a protest rally.

The McAllen Chamber of Commerce planned a "No Border Wall Rally" Tuesday to coincide with the open house, one of several ways residents can comment on the government's environmental impact statement. The environmental report assesses the effects of fence construction along 70 miles of border in the Rio Grande Valley.

Steve Ahlenius, president of the chamber, said community leaders wanted a crowd at the open house to testify and to "lay a foundation" that residents oppose the fence in case residents or city officials decide to sue the government over the fence.

The heavily populated Rio Grande Valley has been the center of opposition to the planned fence, a combination of steel fence and "virtual fencing" designed to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. But landowners and government officials complain the fence will cut them off from the Rio Grande, a historically significant waterway to Texas and the only source of fresh water in the region for livestock and crops. They also say it will do little to stop illegal immigration and smuggling and essentially cede miles of riverfront land to Mexico.

Starr County will have its hearing on Thursday.

The meeting will be held from 4:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the VFW Post No. 08526 in Rio Grande City. DHS is hosting similar "open house" meetings in McAllen on Dec. 11 and Brownsville on Dec. 12.

Members of Texas' congressional delegation were asked to help persuade DHS to concede the public hearing. Starr County Judge Eloy Vela, Rio Grande City Mayor Kevin Hiles and Roma Mayor Roy Ybarra asked U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, to assist.

"DHS has agreed to hold a public hearing for Starr County," Cuellar told the Guardian [last] Wednesday.

Let's hope they do what McAllen did. And Cameron County will have its day as well.

[Brownsville] city officials will vote today on whether to enter into an agreement with McAllen officials to hire Houston attorney Jim Blackburn and associates to represent the entities in litigation regarding the border fence. Blackburn specializes in environmental law.

City Manager Charlie Cabler said the city would be joining other cities along the border in showing their opposition to construction of the fence and offering alternative ways in which to protect the border.

Alternatives include adding more U.S. Border Patrol agents, technology and the construction of a weir or building up of the current levee system, Cabler said.

"We want an opportunity to discuss and sit down and give ideas are how this should be addressed...instead of fencing in and fencing out some of our properties," Cabler said.

Today's votes come on the eve of Wednesday's "open house" in Brownsville in which the Department of Homeland Security will address the draft Environmental Impact Statement and take public comments. The first open house is today at the McAllen Convention Center. The second is at the Brownsville Events Center from 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada Jr. plans to hold an anti-war protest at the tennis courts outside the Brownsville Events Center where he plans to hold a forum for the community to air their complaints.

Representatives from CASA (Coalicion de Amigos en Solidaridad y Accion) and San Felipe De Jesus Church in Cameron Park are also expected to line the sidewalks leading to the events' center protesting the wall.

Good luck, y'all. Thanks to South Texas Chisme for the links.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2007 to National news