Border Fence May Destroy Wildlife Habitat

U.S. Fish and Wildlife services spent $80 million to reclaim wildlife habitat in South Texas. Now Homeland Security is ready to wipe that out.

McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez says city leaders sat down with the federal representatives to discuss the fence. "We want to stop illegal immigration," he says he told them. "But you haven't fixed it in five decades with an enforcement-only policy." He also notes that "a fence cannot arrest anyone."

Cortez confirms that the Border Patrol has said the fence is coming in, and if they don't like it, to take it up with Congress.

"Our position has been very consistent. We live on the border. Our economies are interdependent. We go through legal ports of entry. For years and years and years, our economies have grown with that trade. We've been battling our federal government to invest in legal ports of entry. The problem is, the government has always continued to apply an enforcement-only policy."

Keith Hackland, a guide and authority on birds, says birders who come to the Valley can see 50 to 100 species in one day.
Margaret Downing
Keith Hackland, a guide and authority on birds, says birders who come to the Valley can see 50 to 100 species in one day.

And now the government is fast-tracking a fence.

Hagne of the nature center says, "They are hell-bent on building a wall somewhere. Maybe we can get them to put it in a less sensitive area. If the wildlife disappears, then so will the ecotourists who come to see that wildlife."

Ahlenius says, "It's almost like a rush to action. We've got to move now. We've got to demonstrate action now, without anybody stepping back and saying, ‘what are the consequences?' We're going to pay the price when everyone realizes this was a big mistake."

Roy Snipes, already knows this is a mistake.

Ordained in 1980 in San Antonio, Father Roy describes himself as a "simple country priest." He's the pastor of a nearby church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and runs a youth camp accompanied by his ever-present black labs, Diddly and Augie.

Before he became Father Roy, Snipes was a Texas A&M graduate in agriculture who taught science for many years in nearby San Isidro in Starr County.

For several years now, he's operated a youth camp as a religious retreat where boys and girls can fish, sit by a campfire and reflect on their spirituality. He's afraid a fence would tear right through his camp.

Beyond that, he is heartsick about the wall itself, seeing it as a sign of "a terrible spiritual illness." The money would be better used to feed people, he believes. "Putting up a wall around yourself to keep away the poor people. The wall is going to be like a tomb."

There are a lot of people who swim across, he says. "I usually give them a little wave and a blessing, wish them well."

He is disappointed in President Bush, in whom he had such hopes. "When he was governor, he wouldn't put up with anything like that. He came down here last summer on the banks of the river. He didn't say anything about the wall. He talked about human dignity.

"I can't believe I applauded him. Whoever would think of putting a wall around this country?"

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