No to a border wall in Laredo – It will not help

A border wall does nothing but represent racism and fear, said David Almaraz, president of the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter, at a protest Saturday morning.Almaraz was one of approximately 75 Laredo residents who marched from San Agustin Plaza to City Hall in protest of a border wall. Alongside the residents were several city and county officials, all of whom expressed strong opposition to the federal government’s move to build a fence.

“All the walls we know in history have come tumbling down,” said District III Councilman Michael Landeck.

As the protesters marched their way down the streets of Laredo, they held signs reading “Duro contra el muro” and chanted “No border wall.”

Jim Earhart, executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, said the wall will not only be ineffective, but will cause environmental damage to the Rio Grande, which serves as a 1,200-mile border with Mexico.

He said the river is contaminated enough as it is, and recommended involving the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Fabiola Flores, the rally’s coordinator, said she was glad Laredo was the first city to pass a resolution opposing the proposed wall. But, like Earhart, she said the city could be doing more.

She suggested the city or county could implement a border security task force, which would study proposals in the area and then offer recommendations to local officials.

She further said the federal government should not be dictating policies to areas it is not familiar with.

“If you don’t live here, you don’t know how it works,” she said. “You have to keep your ear to the ground.”

She said if the government wants to fix the border security problem, it should not “treat the symptoms, but cure the cause.”

“They need to replace the ‘F’ in NAFTA with ‘fair trade,’ ” she said. “They could fix it so people weren’t forced to leave their homes.”

Flores was referring to the trade bloc agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada, which came into effect in 1994. It has been criticized for putting many Mexican farmers out of work in addition to causing local businesses in Mexico to close.

Almaraz, a lawyer, said NAFTA put 2 million workers out of a job and caused a 25-percent drop in wages. As a result, he said, Mexican residents have come flooding into the United States in search of a higher standard of living for their families.

“People are going to go to where they have to go,” he said.

Among the city and county officials in attendance were Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, Pct. 4 Commissioner Sergio “Keko” Martinez and Webb County Judge Danny Valdez.

Salinas said building the wall would “squander away billions of taxpayer dollars.”

“(A wall) is not going to work,” he said. “My question is whose going to get rich off this?”

He said the money budgeted for a border wall should instead go toward technology. Martinez, on the other hand, said the money should be given to border communities for economic development.But across the board, the protesters said nothing good could come from a border fence, saying the government needs to “build bridges of friendship, not walls of separation.”

Salinas said because Mexico is a neighbor and trading partner, its people should not be disrespected by a border wall.

“We need to have dialogue, and we need to be friends,” he said. “We need to be united by a river, not divided.”

Salinas also encouraged Laredo residents to vote and express their opinions.

“We’re not going to be taken for granted anymore,” he said