Saturday, July 9, 2011

Security, Wildlife At Stake Behind Brownsville's Border Fence

July 8, 2011
Jessie Degollado

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Pamela Taylor's prediction before the border fence was built near her Brownsville home was correct, she said.

"This is referred to as a funnel," Taylor said because traffic flows toward the openings in the massive metal fence with no gates.

Even before her house just beyond the Rio Grande ended up behind the fence, Taylor said she would find illegal immigrants on her property.

Yet despite the fence and the U.S. Border Patrol agents being on the lookout, "we're not safer," she said.

Taylor described a recent incident involving two people who she said were knocking on her door while her dog had corralled others who she said were trying to steal her car parked in the driveway.

Taylor said the juveniles were "coyotes" bringing illegal immigrants across the river.

"They had people from Honduras with them," she said. The illegal immigrants who were apprehended by Border Patrol.

But Taylor said she is prepared to defend herself if necessary.

"If people come in, they're going to have to suffer the consequences," she said.
Her neighbor down the street even has a sign warning, "Caution. Firearms in Use."

Taylor has her own sign that conveys a different message, "We're part of America. We need representation and protection, not a fence."

On the environmental side, the Nature Conservancy's Southmost Preserve in Brownsville also is now behind the fence.

Since then, Max Ponds, the preserve manager, said it appears little has changed in its operation.

"It may be due to it's not entirely fenced. There are no gates at this point in time," Ponds said.

The preserve's sabal palm forest that once blanketed much of the Rio Grande Valley is often the route taken by a variety of wildlife, like those photographed for El Valle, The Rio Grande Delta, a bilingual book published by the Gorgas Science Foundation that chronicles the region's biodiversity and cultural legacy.

However, once the animals, like endangered ocelots, reach the fence, Ponds said there are openings at its base every 500 feet.

To help creatures find the "notebook paper-sized openings," Ponds said he came up with an idea.

He said he sprays the openings with fox urine, "so they would have a sense of smell they would investigate."

Ponds said he's already seen coyotes come through, although reptiles like the Texas tortoise need larger openings for their hard shells.

Both he and Taylor said although the fence is an unattractive addition to the landscape they appreciate the Border Patrol agents who crisscross back and forth along the fence.

"We have no gripe with Border Patrol. They're here for us," Taylor said.
Ponds said, "I sleep at night knowing someone's out there."

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