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Trump may be gone, but the fight against his border wall goes on

  • >> Edgar Sandoval, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-09-12 13:42:01 BdST

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The men showed up unannounced, but it did not take long for Aleida Flores Garcia to figure out why they were measuring portions of her backyard. “We are here to mark where a border wall would go,” they told her last summer.

A tiny village with fewer than 300 residents, Los Ebanos sits on the edge of the Rio Grande. Now the community has found itself in the middle of a sharp debate over shifting immigration policies as a surge in crossings has reached levels not seen in more than two decades and as the Texas governor has vowed to further fortify the border.

During a special session that ended late last month, state lawmakers approved nearly $2 billion in funding for border security.

Many residents like Garcia are vocal opponents of a wall cutting across their properties, believing that it is both inhumane and also would barricade their binational and bicultural village from the rest of the border region. More than 100 landowners like her have been sued by the federal government, their land earmarked for parts of a wall that polls show most South Texans do not want.

But there is also a small but growing group of residents who have concluded that only a barrier could slow down what they see as a crippling surge in migration not seen in decades. So far this year, there have been more than 1.3 million interactions between migrants and border officials.

Surveys have shown little appetite for a border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. In a 2018 poll conducted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, two-thirds of respondents said they did not favour one. That tracks with national polls.

Many Texans thought the issue would subside once President Joe Biden took office. But in a move that critics said appeared designed to attract support from conservative voters before his reelection campaign, Gov Greg Abbott announced he had set aside $250 million from the state’s general revenue to continue building a wall and also asked people to donate online.

While Biden halted construction on the border wall on his first day in office, lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project said that in recent months there had been little movement by the Department of Justice to dismiss the pending litigation and lawsuits over property until this month.

© The New York Times Company