About the Border Wall…

I’ll admit I’m like most Americans – I had heard about a border wall, but didn’t pay much attention.  “If they think it’s necessary, I guess it’s OK,” I thought.  Or maybe I didn’t think anything at all.

When we arrived into El Paso, we started hearing about the wall.

“You’ll be pedaling right beside the wall,” people told us.  “It’s the most ridiculous thing ever.”

Still I didn’t think much about it.  Yes – it was an enormous, uglier-than-sin monstrosity, but if they felt it was necessary… well, OK.

Forty miles later I sat outside a post office in Fort Hancock waiting for the boys.

“Did you see our wall?” a farmer asked as he pointed off into the distance at the wall about a mile or so away.  “God, that thing is ugly.  It’s the most useless, ridiculous thing the government has ever thought up.”

“I’ve lived here on the border all my life and we’ve never had a problem,” the farmer’s friend added.  “But what I don’t understand is that it’s only little bits and pieces of a wall.  If someone wants to get around, they only have to walk a kilometer or so to get to the end of that segment.  What’s the point of it?”

Huh?  When I heard about the wall, I somehow figured the plan was to build a solid wall along the border.  Now these farmers were saying it would just be a small segment here and another one there.  What’s the point indeed?

And then we got to Alpine.

“This border wall is stupid,” Dee told me.  “For a lot of ranchers, the river is the only source of water their animals have – and now they won’t be able to reach the river.  And another problem is that wildlife don’t respect the border and cross freely – with the wall they won’t be able to.

I had officially morphed from an ignorant American who had never even thought about the border wall to one who was getting more and more curious by the day.  What was the point?  What was the plan?

And finally, we got to McAllen and saw the ridiculousness taken to new heights.  It just so happens that a very wealthy neighborhood lies right on the border, and the last thing those people want is a great big ugly cement wall in their backyard.

So the engineers came up with a brilliant plan – they’ll build the wall into the levee.  On the Mexican side, the wall is the typical, ugly, 20-foot-high concrete monstrosity.  But on the American side, it’s just a nice, little, quaint, 4-foot-high retaining wall.

You see – the engineers worked their magic and buried the American side with tons and tons of dirt, creating a gradual climb up to the top.

After seeing the wall for so many miles and hearing nothing but complaints about it, I’m now more curious than ever.  And so I’m asking you – dear reader – to fill me in here.  Hopefully you know a bit more than I do about what they are trying to accomplish with the border wall.

So – without further ado, I present to you my list of questions.  If you can help me understand this thing a bit, I will be at your service til my dying day (or maybe I should just say I’ll be eternally grateful)

What is the purpose?  (I would think the purpose would be to keep illegals out, but refer to my next question before answering that.)

Why just short segments? (It doesn’t take much brain power to figure out you can simply go one kilometer to the end)

What about the wild animals?  How are they going to get across?

What about the farmers?  Where will their water come from?

Why is the USA spending billions of dollars on a gawd-ugly cement monument?

As I think about this wall, I’m reminded of my conversation with a border agent on our last trip.

“I always tell people to be careful what they wish for,” he told me.  “It’s only a matter of time before we stop the flow of illegals – but I wonder if that’s really what people want.  When they walk into a supermarket and pay $15 for a small basket of strawberries, they’ll wonder if it was really such a grand idea to stop people from crossing the border.  Is that really what they want?”

The border wall is at least 20 ft high all the way along and is totally ugly!

They´ve buried the wall on the American side so it isn´t quite so ugly for the residents.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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4 Responses to About the Border Wall…

  1. Lou Ann January 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    The wall and the funding were legislated by Congress. According to talk radio, the government has been reluctant to really build the wall. At one point, the funding was taken away.

    Of course, little segments make no sense–but it might be a natural outcome of a government under pressure that really doesn’t want to wall off Mexico.

    I don’t know any real-life facts, such as you are observing, but I read that we need to overhaul our immigration laws to let people come in legally–the laws are so tight that they don’t fit our needs or the needs of people who would come into the US to work. The system is broken, obviously–and US citizens and lawmakers cannot agree on policy to fix it. period.

    What I wonder is if you could learn as you go through Mexico–whether NAFTA is really what is behind the tide of illegal immigration. Some sources I read say that it has made millions of farms in Mexico fail. Other sources deny that.

    Are our ethanol policies taking away the corn meal tacos that have kept the poorest in Mexico from starvation?

    Have our drug fighting policies in Colombia driven the drug war to Mexico?

    These are horrific things that no one ever intended. What does the general population think of the US–have we hurt them that badly–or do they receive some benefits in being our neighbors?

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  2. Mike Vermeulen January 18, 2009 at 5:14 am #

    This site has a PBS video about the wall: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/432/

    Apparently, most of the gaps are planned as “virtual fence”, meaning that cameras and border patrol agents would be watching. In principle, it would funnel people into a smaller set of crossing points that can more easily be watched. Also, there are still sections under construction.

    In my opinion, the wall says more about politics (both Washington and in border states) than effectively addressing immigration issues.

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  3. nancy January 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    Gosh LouAnn – why did you go and make me “think”?!?! Honestly, I know nothing about how this wall came to be – it just seems ludicrous. I’ll certainly keep your questions in mind in case I see something that will help me answer those!

    Thanks for that link Mike. I’ll check it out when I have time.

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  4. No Border Wall January 31, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    The Cameron County Commissioners Court passed a resolution which sums up much of the sentiment along Texas’ southern border, saying in part,

    “Proponents of the fence, who are not residents of the border region, have wrongly used the construction of a fence as a rhetorical device to transform the issue of immigration from an economic concern to a matter of international relations and national security, and to transfer responsibility for alleged defects in United States immigration policy and enforcement from the United States government to the government of Mexico.”

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