Last Thursday in Laredo, Texas, a coalition of residents, elected officials, and organizations spoke out against President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall.
Standing in front of a large banner that read “Stand with vets. Stop the Wall. Defend Laredo,” members of the No Border Wall Coalition were accompanied by Veterans United Against the Wall and the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
“We joined the military for different reasons: to defend our home, to protect our rights, or to take care of our families. The border wall is a threat to all of them,” said Valentín Ruiz, a veteran and third-generation Laredo resident. “And every veteran that served from Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexican brothers and sisters that joined us in the military of the United States, they share that sentiment. That’s why we need to fight for it, to keep it free.”
Ruiz remembered how his grandfather and father used to take him fishing and hunting across Rio Grande, and he fears the wall will cut off access to the river, depriving his children from that experience.
In May, President Trump announced the construction of 69 miles of border wall through the city’s historic downtown. However, early this month U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said they will compromise with the city to build a bulkhead or a levee-style barrier so it wouldn’t obstruct the view of downtown.
The coalition thinks that compromise is not enough.
“Laredo is known for the bridge, the water, and the park,” said First Sergeant Jorge Martínez, pointing to the river underneath the Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge and the Los Tres Laredos Park. “That’s what makes Laredo, so by you taking that part and putting a wall, people will come from all over the world to see family or visit, that’s what they’re going to see. They’re going to remember Laredo by a wall, and to me, that’s a political move. It’s not necessarily what the people of Laredo need.”
According to a press release, CBP has built more than 200 miles of new border wall, and is looking to build 399 miles of new border wall system and another 183 miles in pre-construction phase along the Mexico-U.S. border.
Just last month, CBP announced a second contract of more than $289 million for 17 more miles of border wall construction in the Laredo area.
“It’s unbelievable that I would give up my life for our country, but that country wouldn’t care about our water or our lives at all,” said Maxine Rebeles, a teacher who served in the Navy and is member of the No Border Wall Coalition. “Right now, many families are hurting. This pandemic has turned our lives upside down. We should not be wasting money on this useless wall. We need to defund the wall and instead fund our future.”
The coalition retouched the “Defund the Wall. Fund Our Futures” street mural this Saturday, which the No Border Wall Coalition said has been damaged from traffic and vandalism.
Local Trump supporters planned a Trump Train caravan which had participation from the National Border Patrol Council. According to the No Border Wall Coalition, the Trump Train tried to cancel the repainting of the mural. But the Trump Train parade was forced to change its route because their organizers decided not to complete a basic task: getting a parade permit.
You can watch the news conference here.
Diego Jesús Bartesaghi Mena is a 2020 Latino Rebels summer correspondent. A recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he is based in Newark, NJ and tweets from @bartesaghi_mena.