The line of workers braces against a stretch of chain-link fencing, lifting it as a pickup truck pulls it tightly against metal poles. The Rio Grande flows right across a sandy embankment across the road from where they are operating. On the other side is Mexico, the point of departure for more than a million people who have been caught crossing into the US without papers over the past year and are taking Texas where Donald Trump left off, and once again. The border was creating barriers.
“Pause!” shouts a foreman, after the chain link slips into place. “Oh, so beautiful,” he says, pausing to admire his work before moving on to the next part.
North of the Texas border town of Del Rio, the Vega Verde Road stretches for eight kilometers along the Rio Grande, and the fence already extends into the distance, the finished parts crowned with flashes of razor wire. Along with other parts of the border, a state-supported new fence is taking shape, whose eagerness for the new walls only increased with the sudden arrival of about 15,000 people, many of them from Haiti, who traveled beneath Del Río. A camp was built. Bridge.
US Border Patrol detains thousands as tensions escalate in Del Rio, Texas
“If a river can’t stop them, hopefully a fence can,” said David Arredondo, a worker building a steel-roofed shelter along the river, a short drive from that bridge.
More migrants have been apprehended by US law enforcement in the past year than at any other point in the past two decades, with more than 1.5 million people entering the country illegally through Mexico in the past 11 months. more than three times a year.
Retired teacher Yolanda Fernandez, who lives near the Rio Grande, just north of Del Rio, disliked the idea of a border wall when Trump proposed it.
But his home is a testament to the fear brought to him by the regular passage of strangers into his property. The windows are covered with iron bars. Two Rottweilers – Charra and Oso – have tension in their chain with furious barking when they see a stranger. At night, Ms. Fernandez and her husband set the two dogs free to guard the property.
Still, in June he counted 150 people walking through his property in a single day, in the early days of a wave of Haitian migrants that has created the most acute border crisis to face the Joe Biden administration. Mr Biden halted border-wall work shortly after taking office and has since canceled several construction contracts.
But Ms. Fernandez, like many of her neighbours, has changed her mind on the idea – and now welcomes Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to erect new fencing, albeit less than three meters in height, by chain-link. The Texas version is shorter than the nine-metre colossus Mr Trump has in some places.
In recent years, the flow of people through the Fernandez property has destroyed fences and left behind dirty toilet paper and other litter. His house has been repeatedly robbed. Once, Ms. Fernandez’s husband crossed the border and found thieves on the other side of the river taking off the family’s property.
But the number of people has decreased dramatically in recent weeks. Ms. Fernandez gives credit for the new fencing.
“Are we happy that the wall is being built? Yes. I feel sorry for these people and what they are doing. But I’m happy, because it’s going to deter theft.”
Options shrink for thousands of Haitian migrants at Mexico-Texas border
Walls are not new to the US southern borders. Earlier this year, US Customs and Border Protection reported that barriers have been built along 1,240 km of the 3,145-kilometre border. Mr Trump claimed to have taken credit for building a 727-km wall during his tenure. But only 10th of them were in areas where there was no barrier already.
Now Mr Abbott is determined to build more, working with landowners willing to allow employees to build new fencing. He has committed to spending US$3 billion on the border and petitioned the White House to declare a disaster in areas affected by migrant crossings.
Much of that money is funding fleets of police and other personnel that landed in border towns, such as Del Rio, to enforce a new order to arrest migrants for trespassing on private and state property. Huh. Mr Abbott called it a “steel barrier” of guns and vehicles to prevent people from crossing.
But about US$1 billion of the new spending has been earmarked for the construction of actual steel barriers, where the state can secure landowners’ agreement. The Texas Department of Public Safety has identified 1,179 kilometers “where any type of obstruction may be necessary,” Rene Eise, a press secretary for Mr. Abbott, said in a statement.
“The state has taken the next step in the process by recently hiring a program management firm through the Texas Amenities Commission to lead the planning and execution of the border wall construction project.”
On Tuesday, the governor arrived on the Rio Grande where thousands of migrants crossed last week, determined to make the case that the state would do what the White House would not.
“If you are targeting Texas to come, we will show up by force and close the border,” Mr. Abbott said. “We are not going to allow a repeat of the disaster that we saw here in Del Rio.”
Building a new fence isn’t cheap. In a location about 100 kilometers south of Del Rio, it costs about $10 million a kilometer, said Eddie Morales, a member of the Texas House of Representatives who was among the few state Democrats supporting the border security bill, which Will enter a new state. Money in fence-building. He supported an amendment to ensure that the state could not give suitable land for fencing along the border. Still he remains skeptical.
“We think it’s ineffective. I have the high-tech equipment and manpower – shoes on the ground – instead of a wall to solve this issue,” he said.
There is enthusiasm among those accusing them of apprehending migrants.
“It is not just a wall on the entire south-west border. But it is in strategic locations so that we can control where illegal immigration happens,” said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for border guards. “If we can control that, we can be a lot more effective at what we’re doing.”
Others accept skepticism. “The fence is good. It’s a deterrent. It slows stuff down. But the people who carry them across” – human traffickers directing migrant movements – “they know where to go and where to go is,” said Randy Abbey, another landlord near Vega Verde Road. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a wound.”
Rob Jump has seen those smugglers. While off the coast of the Rio Grande, he often binoculars men sitting on sentry posts on a sandy hill across the water in Mexico.
Still, the idea of a fence lost its sheen in recent weeks, when he saw it taking shape across the street from his home. “It’s just kind of become a burden,” he said. Instead of preventing people from crossing the river, he hopes that the fence will channel more people from his property as they walk along the fence toward town.
“I was on about it until they did,” he said. “Now I look at it like it’s kind of fruitless.”
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