Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Group asks residents to document border wall 'abuse'

Rio Grande Guardian
September 2, 2008

GRANJENO, September 2 - Border residents are being asked to act as witnesses to any “abuses” perpetrated by the Department of Homeland Security or its agents during construction of the border wall.

Documented evidence of “abuse” is being sought by the No Border Wall group in the hope that it can be used as testimony at congressional hearings held to review the border wall project. The group hopes such hearings will be forthcoming once a new Congress and a new White House administration take office next January.

“We are clearly in a lawless situation right now, thanks to the Real ID Act, which gives Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the right to waive our laws,” said No Border Wall spokeswoman Stefanie Herweck.

“The only option we have is to become witnesses to what are essentially crimes by the Department of Homeland Security. So, we ask people to become witnesses, to give testimony, to ensure these acts do no go undocumented.”

Although the No Border Wall group originated in the Rio Grande Valley, Herweck said the group is calling for documentation from border residents up and down the U.S.-Mexico border. “The feeling is that we have until now and January, when the new Congress meets and the new administration comes in, to create a national movement against the border wall,” Herweck said.

Herweck announced details of the “Border Wall Documentation Project” at a rally against the border wall in Granjeno on Monday evening. Granjeno, a small town south of Mission, Texas, is one of the locations identified by Border Patrol as a prime site for a border wall. Currently, construction crews are in Granjeno to build a concrete levee-wall, a project devised jointly by DHS and Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court.

More than 200 people attended “Support Granjeno Day,” enjoying a chicken barbecue and speeches against the border wall by community leaders. The event was organized by the Resist the Wall pressure group.

After her speech, Herweck handed out leaflets telling local residents how they could participate in the Border Wall Documentation Project.

The leaflet stated: “In the rush to build walls along the U.S-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security is forsaking the laws that safeguard human life and the health of communities and the environment. Border walls are being hastily constructed despite clear evidence that they will not curb undocumented immigration or smuggling, and with scant analysis of their negative impacts. By working outside and above the laws that protect us and by perpetrating such damage, DHS is victimizing the U.S. borderlands.”

Herweck said she hoped that by acting as witnesses to any “crimes” committed by DHS, Granjeno and other border residents could provide “ample evidence to Congress that the border wall project is a tremendous national mistake and that DHS is an agency out of control.”

Herweck urged border residents to compile a list of the negative impacts or foreseeable negative impacts a border wall creates, and to include local examples of abuse perpetrated by DHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or any other private business or government agency involved in the border wall’s construction.

The No Border Wall leaflet listed 12 potential examples of both the “negative impacts” the border wall could create and the “abuses” DHS could perpetrate:

1) Local evidence that the border wall project is not related to CBP operational needs and not a part of a coherent border security strategy;
2) Local evidence that the border wall does not work
3) Inadequate or non-existent consultation with local officials about border wall construction;
4) Refusal to engage in fair negotiation with local property owners and strong arm tactics;
5) Local evidence that the border wall is inhumane and is causing unnecessary human suffering and death;
6) Studies ensuring the safety of wall segments have not been done;
7) Evidence that DHS is disregarding public safety in border wall construction;
8) Adverse impacts on local communities, businesses, agriculture, and the economy as a whole, both immediate and foreseeable;
9) Adverse impacts on the local environment, both immediate and foreseeable;
10) Disproportionate negative impacts on low-income and minority populations;
11) Evidence of DHS disregarding or squelching the opinions of other government agencies, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Environmental Protection Agency;
12) Criticism of DHS’s “Environmental Stewardship Plans” for local sectors.

Herweck said border residents should send such “evidence” to their local member of Congress and their two U.S. senators. The evidence could be sent in written form, in pictures or by video. “Be as specific and detailed as possible,” she said.

Herweck also suggested that copies of the documentation be sent to the No Border Wall group so that it can, potentially, be forwarded to Washington, D.C., lobbyists working against the border wall. The group would then submit the “evidence” at future congressional hearings, she said.

The e-mail address for such “evidence” is borderwalldocumentation@yahoo.com. The fax number is 956-968-1388, and the physical address is No Border Wall, PO Box 8124, Weslaco, Texas 78599.

“We ask that those participating include their full name, address, phone numbers and e-mail addresses so that we can contact them,” Herweck said. “This information will remain confidential, and the material sent will not be used without prior consent.”

Herweck said border residents could work on their documentation with the groups and churches they belong to in order to develop a comprehensive list. However, she said it would be best if separate letters are written. “Members of Congress are deluged with letters and petitions from people urging them to build the border wall. The more letters we send, the better,” Herweck said.

Granjeno resident Daniel Garza told the Guardian he could provide plenty of evidence that the border wall construction is causing unnecessary human suffering against minority populations. He pointed out that Granjeno is more than 95 percent Hispanic.

“The traffic, the noise and the dust are getting worse every day. You can’t come out of your house because of the noise. Seven days a week from sunrise to sundown. It never ends,” said Garza, who sits and watches the levee wall going up behind his back yard. “We are all waiting for a new president who will stop this nonsense. We are hoping for change.”

Granjeno Mayor Vicente Garza, Jr., said the 485 residents in his town are very angry with the levee-wall project. “We used to have such a peaceful environment, the wilderness, the birds, the wildflowers. Now, it’s just machinery all day long,” he said. “Our people were never consulted about this wall and we have never had a problem with illegal immigrants coming through here.”

Mayor Garza thanked “Resist the Wall” for staging “Support Granjeno Day.”

“We had a great turnout. A lot of local residents came out. We are pleased to be able to have our say and we are pleased the media is here to report what we are thinking,” he said.


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