Time Ripens

    It is 4:40 on Monday afternoon. We are already ten minutes late as our caravan heads down Monsees Road to Calle Milpa Verde Street in Southmost. Southmost is a community unto itself in Brownsville – students from this area will answer “Southmost” instead of “Brownsville” if they are asked where they live. The 6 of us are driving these pot-holed streets and close communities because Southmost, like so many other communities along the Rio Grande Valley, is slated to have a border wall before the end of the year.

    We drive by the home of Rusty Monsees, one of but a few landowners on the river who is for the wall. In a February 2 article in the Brownsville Herald, Mr. Monsees said he wanted a wall behind his land to stem the drug-running he has witnessed, although he does not seem to mind the occasional immigrant family crossing, people he refers to endearingly as la gente. Mr. Monsees was such a proponent of the wall that he called the United States’ government to ask them to build the wall in his backyard, with one caveat – he insisted there be a gate in the Secure Fence to afford him access to the river. (Sieff, Kevin. “Necessary Sacrifices”)

    The road wends its way past the Monsees, up and over the levee which could stand to be a few feet higher at this point. We make our way down Calle Milpa Verde, talking with local landowners, kids, students, dads, teen mothers, grandmothers, aunts, renters, gardeners. Mr. Garcia alerts us that a government agent just visited his house a half hour ago; perhaps if we had not been late, maybe if time had slowed him up and sped up our efforts, we would have been there when the U.S. government man was there asking Mr. Garcia to waive the rights to his property. As it is, we are fortunate – Mr. Garcia has already been in contact with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

    Not everyone on Milpa Verde and San Eugenio Streets, though, is as knowledgeable about the federal designs for their property. One old woman has never heard of a muro before, and it is all we could do to make her believe that the government wanted to erect an 18-foot wall on the 8-foot levee behind her tiny house. Other families have signed but are now having second thoughts. Some want to fight it, but thought it would be prohibitively expensive until they realized that several law firms have pledged to do this work pro-bono.

    As kids run around, flour tortillas sputter and sizzle in the pan, and barbecue wafts through this tight-knit community, we continue to speak with over 150 people. A group of elementary-age children gets so excited about fighting the border wall that they take off on their mountain bikes, distributing 40 leaflets to their neighbors in a veritable “race towards awareness.” We smile at their passion and their instant sense of indignation at the immorality of a border wall through their lives.

    While some individuals bring up the opinions of Monsees, all agree that a border wall would not solve the problems. Far from merely handing out neon-green flyers, this time is meaningful in that it gives all of us updates and perspectives from the “ground.” Even though I live in Brownsville, it is still about 2 miles from the prospective border wall; it is amazing to hear their unique perspectives, their ideas about what solutions would really work, their brainstorms about better ways to spend $49 billion. By the end of the evening, every single one of us wonders if the government even asked the advice of any of these people. We even register three new voters, so at least the government will have the opinions of three more landowners in the upcoming November election.

    Time flies when you are meeting new people and talking about an issue dear to your heart. As encouraging as these few hours were, it is daunting to realize that this must happen in every community all along the 120 miles of the Rio Grande Valley. It will take at least two more trips to Southmost to flyer every single house on the levee, and the government is certainly not waiting patiently as we organize. Despite the semi-favorable court decisions the last few weeks, the U.S. government still is adamant about pursuing the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The opposition to the wall is growing in purpose and in numbers, but we must press on. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Why We Can’t Wait,

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. (86)

The border wall is not an inevitable reality, but neither is a successful overturning of this federal legislation. To that end, people on all borders and immigrants of all ethnicity and background must join this effort to oppose a border wall and demand the immigration reform every U.S. resident so desperately needs. Time is only on our side if we are doing something meaningful for a cause in which we believe. The time is right, and ripens everyday.

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