Posts Tagged ‘Cameron County’

The Closing of the American Mind

June 1, 2008

No one in Spain could believe that the United States was going to build a border wall between itself and its southern neighbor, in fact had already built and rebuilt portions of wall in Arizona and California. Most of them felt bad for Americans, thinking we had been swindled by a President dead-set on sending men to war. Most of them felt excited with us for our gripping primaries, elections which had gotten Americans to care once more about politics. But none of them could understand why Americans would allow, and even clamor for, a border wall.

While Cameron County still is debating the necessity of a border wall, Hidalgo County is pushing ahead with plans for a levee-wall compromise, slated to begin July 25 and be completed by the end of the year. Homeland Security is paying $88 million for construction of the wall, while Hidalgo is going to pay $65 million to repair the levee (a federal responsibility). After the construction, Hidalgo County will seek reimbursement from the State while also attempting to convince other counties to make a similar compromise. (http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/slated_87157___article.html/border_wall.html)

No one in Spain could fathom the outlandishness of a wall. When shown pictures of sister cities like Brownsville-Matamoros, they were aghast that a wall was going to be built to reinforce the “natural barrier” of the Rio Bravo and reinforce the feelings of resentment and/or racism between these two countries at peace.

As Hidalgo readies for the wall after July 4th, the rest of the world will be watching the effects of the hurricane on the border region. Little consideration has been given to the international repercussions of a wall and levee on only one side of the river. If Mexico fails to respond with a similar levee reconstruction project, the streets of Nuevo Laredo and Juarez and Matamoros will be swimming in hurricane rain at the end of every summer. The wall has been rushed, however, and so qualms about international laws and cooperation have been ignored in favor of expediting the process.

During hurricane season, the nation will also be focused on the Rio Grande Valley for another reason. When the calls for evacuation are made, hundreds of thousands of people are going to hesitate to leave their homes. Not because of stubbornness, not because of ignorance, not because of inability- no, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will not evacuate the Valley this year and in years to come because the Border Patrol has stated that it will be checking the immigration status of fleeing families. (http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/people_86708___article.html/cascos_hurricane.html)

The world must shudder when it hears of such inhuman, unfeeling policies. Surely, the Spaniards I met in Gallicia and Cantabria would have blanched to know about the dehumanizing, fear-inducing checkpoints 50 miles north of the Rio Grande, a militarized line which marks the northernmost progression of so many extralegal or currently legalizing immigrants. Undoubtedly, the Spaniards in Castelleon and Catalunia would be indignant to think that another Hurricane Katrina might hit South Texas any year, and that thousands and thousands of people might die or be injured because of their greater fear of deportation.

Having traveled Spain for a month, I quickly realized as I talked about my home in southern Texas that the United States is in a terrible state of closing itself off to the rest of the world. Not that this has made it an isolationist in terms of military endeavors; in all positive meanings of the word “open,” however, the United States has ceased to work at diplomacy and mutual understanding. A border wall is a continuation of restrictive immigration policies which flatly say “No” to millions of willing workers every year. Immigration checks during hurricane season are in the same dastardly vein as checking library records and phone conversations of “suspected yet not convicted” terrorists. Child detention centers such as Hutto near Houston, Texas, are merely a continuation of Guantanamo Bay, waiving habeus corpus and countless humanitarian laws in the name of justice.

The whole world looks at the United States as we decide the future of our nation today. Can we afford to wall off our allies, the best the world has to offer, the solutions of tomorrow which perhaps are being formulated in some foreign land? Are we going to turn away willing workers from countries which lack sufficient quota numbers, and are we going to leave future generations of immigrants to a lottery system? And are we going to operate out of fear, fear of others, fear of ourselves, fear of foreigners and fear of Spanish, fear of change and fear of the future, fear of the globalization we have been instrumental in producing, fear of open lines of communication, and fear of real compromise? The whole world looks at Texas right now as a symbol of the United States’ resolve for tomorrow, and Valley residents pray that the U.S. is not compromised by the events of this year.

May 6- Eloisa Tamez Addresses the Cameron County Commissioners

May 12, 2008

In the Castellano Province of northern Spain, I have been overwhelmed with awe at a new land, language, and people every single day of this month-long Rotary trip to Spain.  All of this traveling, though, is tinged with a hint of regret that I am reduced to a peripheral role in the organized opposition to the border wall or levee-wall compromise on the Texas & Mexico border.  The Spaniards are very sympathetic to border residents’ resentment towards the Secure Fence Act of 2006, but I still feel somewhat removed from events such as Eloisa Tamez’s address to the Cameroun County Commisioners on May 6.  Her address was as follows:

Presentation to Cameron County Commissioner’s Court
Presented by Eloisa G. Taméz, RN, PhD, FAAN

Judge Cascos, Commissioners, Fellow Citizens
We the citizens of Cameron County are facing many challenges in relation to the Border Wall construction.
1.        Through the Declaration of Taking (DTA), many of us landowners are in peril of losing our ancestral lands.
2.       The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has violated constitutional laws to take our lands (Persisitently used 2006 Secure Fence Act and ignored 2008 Appropriations Bill).
3.       Members of Congress and Senate passed the Real ID Act of 2005, giving Secretary Chertoff, an appointed Executive Branch official, absolute power.
4.       The human rights of the citizens of South Texas are being violated as evidenced by the absence of the proposed Border Wall construction in properties owned by corporations (River Bend Resort) and the connected (Hunt Enterprises).
5.       The citizens of South Texas are being denied equal protection in accordance with the 5th Amendment.
6.       The affected citizens lack representation by elected officials: local, state, national.
7.       Citizens are being accosted in their own land by Border Patrol Agents (BPA).  Example:  Those of us, whose land is divided by the levee, are being confronted by the BPA when we are on the levee.  We hold title and pay taxes on that easement that only the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) is authorized to access.
8.       The BPA, while trespassing on private property, have turned the levee into a highway and DHS is now requiring Cameron County citizens to bear the cost of repairs to damage they produced.  This movement is unacceptable to the citizens of Cameron County.
We are indigenous to these lands and citizens of the United States.  Yet, we are under siege by our own government and subject to disparaging remarks by those elected officials in Washington DC who authored bills like the 2006 Secure Fence Act and the Real ID Act of 2005 that are based on political survival rather than the greater good for America.  Fear has been purposely created on less than valid and justified conclusions.  At a recent Congressional Hearing in Brownsville, DHS representatives were unable to provide qualified and scientific information regarding those areas in the proposed Wall’s path that are excluded.
America is headed towards a Unitarian Government rather than a democracy.  Is this the legacy that we want for our children and their children?  To heal this decay in American democracy, we must unite as a people and raise consciousness to local and state elected officials, the President of the United States and Congress that the opening words in the constitution read “We the people……. not “We the corporations” or  “I Michael Chertoff”.
I urge you to vote responsibly for your constituents to approve the proposition presented here today, May 6, 2008, by Commissioner John Wood, who honors all Cameron County with diligence.
Name of lawsuit:  Affirmative Lawsuit of Taméz, García, et al VS Michael Chertoff & Robert F. Janson of the Department of Homeland Security.

I look forward to rejoining the solid efforts already organized against the construction of any border barrier on any frontera of the United States when I return to Brownsville, Texas, on May 26.