MISSION, RGV – The Rev. Roy Snipes of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission is featured in a video produced by The Atlantic.
The video explains Snipes’ opposition to a border wall, the militarization of the border, and his concern that La Lomita Chapel may get walled off if more border barriers are erected.
“The beauty of this sacred place would be desecrated,”Snipes said, in reference to La Lomita.
The famous chapel, built in 1899, stands just 100 yards from the Rio Grande.
Scott Nicol and Stefanie Herweck, of the Sierra Club, are pictured measuring how far an enforcement zone could be extended at La Lomita, should a border wall be built on an adjacent levee. The chapel “could potentially be destroyed,” Nicol states.
The video starts with Snipes saying: “A Christian is more interested in hospitality than hostility. La Lomita stands for that.”
The video notes that in February, Congress sought to protect La Lomita while at the same time approving 55 miles of new border walls in the Rio Grande Valley. This measure was added by Congressman Henry Cuellar, the only border lawmaker on the joint House-Senate committee that crafted a bill providing more funding for border security. Cuellar said La Lomita was one of the Valley’s “sensitive areas” and thus needed protecting.
However, soon after the compromise legislation was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate, President Trump declared a national emergency. As the video notes, this would allow the Trump administration to build more walls than Congress has approved, leaving La Lomita Chapel’s future uncertain.
“What a Christian tries to do is build bridges, not walls,” Snipes says in the video. He also said the presence of the Army in the area is “scaring people.”
“Just what is a middle class Gringo doing down here,” Snipes asks about himself. The answer is he taught school in San Ysidro. “That’s when I fell in love with the Valley.”
Snipes said the people of the Valley have survived for 150 years without a border wall.
“No one ever thought we would have to build a wall. Opposing the wall doesn’t mean we want an open border. But it does mean we really want to treat people the way we would like to be treated. We really do want to treat people like human beings and a wall do seem just a tad inhumane,” Snipes states.
David Garza is an attorney for the Diocese of Brownsville. In the video, Garza talks about a lawsuit brought by the Catholic Church to save La Lomita.
“We feel it is such an important issue that we needed to take a stand at the very beginning. It is a matter of principle that the Diocese doesn’t believe in the border wall and doesn’t want it built on its property. We are trying to uphold what we believe is the First Amendment right, Freedom of Religion,” Garza said.
President Trump, obviously, takes a different view. “Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight,” Trump is heard to say in the video.
Snipes responds: “It is meant to intimidate people from the other side that might want to come across but it is scaring people here.”
Snipes said symbols are clashing at La Lomita.
“The symbol of La Lomita is that we want to be humble and kind and hospitable. The wall is saying, we don’t want anybody who is having trouble to come here,” Snipes said.
“There are a lot of people that have a natural fear of strangers coming across, they are not like us. I think he (Trump) is getting a lot of milage out of that.”
The video shows other clergy that work along the South Texas border having dinner with Snipes. Different viewpoints are aired over dinner. Some people want to “barge the border,” says one priest. Another says the presence of the Army makes the Valley resemble a “war zone.”
Towards the end of the video, a worker at La Lomita, 82-year-old Adrellita, is introduced. Snipes says she watches over the chapel like a Guardian Angel.
“I don’t know why they want to build a wall here,” Adrellita states. “I say over my dead body.”