|EDINBURG, May 10 - Picture this…your body is covered with dripping sweat. Your lips are peeling, gasping for water to nurture them.
Your stomach is growling and screeching with the desire for food. Your eyes seem to lose focus, and your body is slowly shutting down. But you keep going trying to reach your home. Unfortunately when you reach your destination, there is absolutely nothing but a great big cement wall built on the remains of all that you’ve ever known and loved.
Without water, shelter, and food you face an uncertain future. How can one sustain life if the necessary resources are unavailable?
When Congress was deciding whether or not to build the border wall, everyone voiced their opinion except the ones that could not speak…the wildlife of the borderlands. Our Rio Grande Valley is known for its diversity of fauna. Animals such as ocelots, coyotes, tortoises, bobcats and many more inhabit the Valley. Because of the large human population and agriculture, the Valley offers animals an already small amount of land for habitat.
But building of the fence has forced the animals to struggle to find the resources they need. The border wall cuts off access to the river, new habitats, and mates.
Although some segments of the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley were created to have small openings to allow animals to pass through, they don’t use these gaps because they can’t find them, and or they are too small for the larger animals. The concrete levee-wall that was built in Hidalgo County has NO openings at all.
One of the species that is being affected the most because of the border wall is the ocelot. Ocelots are an endangered wildcat species found in South Texas, Mexico, and some parts of South America. The ocelot has lost most of its original habitat to the growing human population. In order for the species to be healthy and survive into the future, they must have enough genetic diversity from mates in Mexico. Therefore the government has spent millions of dollars to establish the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge to help connect animals to Mexico.
The border wall makes the situation for ocelot much more dire.
Even though ocelots are protected by the Endangered Species Act, Congress gave the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to waive dozens of environmental protection laws when building the border wall, including the Endangered Species Act. The government is excusing itself by stating that it must secure the borders at all cost.
Even if it means building up a wall that is ineffective and does nothing to make us more secure. According to Census data, in the year of 2011 the total U.S. population was 311,914,816. Of this, 3.7 percent is composed of undocumented immigrants. Other recent studies also show that 97 percent of the people who come illegally to the United States and try to cross the border wall eventually do get through!
Immigration reform is once again being discussed in Congress. President Barack Obama stated, “We are not going to ship back 12 million people, we're not going to do it as a practical matter. We would have to take all our law enforcement that we have available and we would have to use it and put people on buses, and rip families apart, and that's not who we are, that's not what America is about. So what I've proposed... is you say we're going to bring these folks out of the shadows. We're going to make them pay a fine, they are going to have to learn English, they are going to have to go to the back of the line...but they will have a pathway to citizenship over the course of ten years."
To make this work politically, politicians propose increasing enforcement on our borders by increasing the number of border patrol agents and adding hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Immigration legislation introduced in the Senate would grant $1.5 billion to build many more miles of border fence. There are few other places to build this fencing other than the Rio Grande Valley. They want to “secure the border” at all costs even if it means the extinction of animals such as ocelots.
We are all in favor of a better immigration reform but not the border wall. Spending 1.5 billion American taxpayer dollars is illogical when our country needs the money to better our economy.
We must defend our natural heritage against congress and STOP the construction of new border walls. We must tell them to spend the money in better immigration reform, not a wall!
Noemi Arjona is a freshman at the University of Texas Pan-American. Her major is business with a minor in English. Nature is important to her, and she’s committed to preserving it.
The above guest column is part of a series on environmental issues the Rio Grande Guardian is running in association with UTPA.