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Border Fence Sparks Outrage in Texas

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  • dorinda moreno
    Border Fence Sparks Outrage in Town By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, 2007-11-09 http://news.aol.com/story/_a/border-fence-sparks-outrage-in-town/20071108162709990002
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2007
      Border Fence Sparks Outrage in Town
      http://news. aol.com/story/ _a/border- fence-sparks- outrage-in- town/20071108162 709990002

      GRANJENO, Texas (Nov. 8) - Founded 240 years ago, this sleepy Texas
      town along the Rio Grande has outlasted the Spanish, then the Mexicans
      and then the short-lived independent Republic of Texas. But it may not
      survive the U.S. government's effort to secure the Mexican border with
      a steel fence.

      A map obtained by The Associated Press shows that the double- or
      triple-layer fence may be built as much as two miles from the river on
      the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, leaving parts of Granjeno and other
      nearby communities in a potential no-man's-land between the barrier
      and the water's edge.

      Photo Gallery: Border Dispute

      Guillermo Arias, AP A new border fence is pictured in Sasabe, Ariz.,
      in May. Congress has authorized a total of $1.2 billion for 700 miles
      of fence at the Mexican border to keep out drug smugglers and illegal
      immigrants. Source: AP

      Based on the map and what the residents have been told, the fence
      could run straight through houses and backyards. Some fear it could
      also cut farmers off from prime farmland close to the water.

      "I don't sleep right because I'm worried," said Daniel Garza, a
      74-year-old retiree born and raised in Granjeno. Garza said federal
      agents told him that the gray brick house he built just five years ago
      and shares with his 72-year-old wife is squarely in the fence's path.

      "No matter what they offer, I don't want to move, I don't want to
      leave," Garza said, his eyes watering.

      Congress has authorized $1.2 billion for 700 miles of fence at the
      Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. The
      plans call for about 330 miles of virtual fences - cameras,
      underground sensors, radar and other technology - and 370 miles of
      real fences. About 70 miles of real fence are set to be built in the
      Rio Grande Valley, at the southeastern tip of Texas, by the end of 2008.

      What's Your Take?

      The Rio Grande has been the international boundary since the Treaty of
      Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 ended the Mexican-American War. But
      officials say that putting the fence right up against the river could
      interfere with its flow during a flood and change its course,
      illegally altering the border.

      The map obtained by the AP shows seven stretches of proposed fence in
      the Rio Grande Valley, including one section that could cut through
      the property of about 35 of Granjeno's nearly 100 houses. City leaders
      and residents say federal officials have shown them the same map.

      Exactly how many Rio Grande Valley residents could lose some or all of
      their property is unclear. The map does not have a lot of detail, and
      depicts only one portion of the valley, which has about 2 million
      people overall.

      Local residents, many of whom have put "No Border Wall" signs on their
      cars and in their yards, say they have been assured they will be
      compensated at fair market value for any property taken by the U.S.
      government. But that has not given them much comfort.

      "We want to be safe, but it's just that this is not a good plan," said
      Cecilia Benavides, whose riverfront land in Roma, about 50 miles
      upriver from Granjeno, was granted to the family by the Spanish in
      1767. "It gives Mexico the river and everything that's behind that
      wall. It doesn't make any sense to me."

      Michael Friel, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman in
      Washington, said the maps are preliminary and no final decisions on
      the route of the fence have been made. But he said the maps reflect
      the government's judgment of how best to secure the border against

      Photo Gallery: Take the Citizenship Test

      David McNew, Getty Images As one of the qualifications to become a
      citizen, immigrants must answer 6 of 10 questions correctly. Click
      through the photos to try 10 of them on the list of 100. First
      question: Who is in charge of the executive branch?
      1 of 11
      "Our agency, Customs and Border Protection, has an obligation to
      secure our nation's border and we take that obligation, or that
      responsibility, very seriously," Friel said.

      The fence would be at least 15 feet high and capable of withstanding a
      crash of a 10,000-pound vehicle going 40 mph, according to the
      Department of Homeland Security.

      Exactly what it would look like has not been decided, but it could
      consist of concrete-filled steel posts a few inches apart, or perhaps
      sheet metal with small openings. It would not be continuous, but would
      instead be broken up in several sections of various length.

      What will happen to the land between the fence and the river is the
      biggest question for landowners in border towns like Granjeno, a town
      of three streets and about 400 people situated in a mostly
      corn-growing region of the Rio Grande Valley.

      J.D. Salinas, the top elected official in Hidalgo County, said he
      can't get an answer no matter how many times he asks.

      "Are we going to lose prime farmland because they are going to build a
      structure that's not going to work?" Salinas asked. "You're moving the
      border, basically two miles. You're giving it up to Mexico, and the
      U.S.-Mexico treaties say you are not supposed to do that."

      Local officials also fear the fence could cut off access to drinking
      water that is pumped from the river and piped in to 35,000 homes in
      the Rio Grande Valley. They fear that town officials will not be
      allowed to set foot inside the no-man's-land to repair any pumps that
      might fail.

      Homeland Security documents on a department Web site say that "in some
      cases, secure gates will be constructed to allow land owners access to
      their private property near the Rio Grande." But the documents offer
      few details.

      "They said there's going to be gates, and I said, 'That's wonderful.
      What kind of gates?'" said Noel Benavides, Cecilia Benavides' husband.
      The only specific type described, he said, was an electronic gate.

      "That requires power. What happens when it floods?" Benavides said he
      asked federal officials. He never got an answer.

      Granjeno Mayor Alberto Magallan said his small town wants to fight.
      But with only one business - an agricultural trucking company and bar
      - and a per capita income of $9,000, it is unlikely they can afford to
      do anything but sell.

      Manuel Olivarez Jr., a 63-year-old lumber salesman, said that his
      daughter's and brother's homes would be spared, but that the fence
      would run through their backyards. And Olivarez worries the Border
      Patrol is likely to pass very close to his daughter's house every day.

      "Probably if she sticks out her hand from the back door, a Border
      Patrol Jeep will be hit her," Olivarez said with a nervous laugh.

      Gloria Garza, Daniel Garza's niece, said she worries the border fence
      will eventually destroy the town where she has lived all her life.

      "My biggest fear is to see Granjeno gone," Garza said. "That is really
      my biggest fear. It breaks my heart."
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