The first construction of President Trump's long promised 'border wall' is underway in the Rio Grande Valley, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
J.D. Salinas, who heads the Texas Border Coalition, says crews have begun survey work for the wall in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in a loop of the Rio Grande south of the town of Alamo in Hidalgo County.
The stretch of barrier in that area will run about twenty miles, and the President is using a 2005 anti-terrorism statute to avoid conducting an environmental impact study is what is home to many bird species, and is considered one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in Texas.
Salinas says another problem is...the wall will place much of the refuge on the 'Mexican side' of the barrier.
"This is an area that I grew up with, and I learned a lot, and it is a very precious area," Salinas said. "I hope they reconsider, because we will lose a lot of opportunites.
People who live and work in the Rio Grande Valley have long been the most vocal opponents of border fencing. They say it would wall off large stretches of their region, lead to flooding in the alluvial plain that is the Rio Grande Valley, and would be a constant eyesore in their daily lives, not to mention sending a negative message to Mexico, which is the Valley's top trading partner, and while relies on Mexican commerce for its economy.
Salinas says there are far better ways to tackle the illegal immigration problem. He says border crossing checkpoints, where most undocumented immigrants enter the country, can be improved, the Carrizo cane, an invasive plant which hampers the Border Patrol's ability to reach sensitive areas, can be eradicated, and the levee system on the Rio Grande can be improved.
"The federal government has shown before that if you work on a win-win situation like working on the levees, that helps the Border Patrol agents to do their job," Salinas said.