“You can’t put a price on our river” - Rio Bravo Commissioner Amanda Aguero
LAREDO, TX -- In response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to award a whopping $361 million to destroy 16 river miles in Webb and Zapata counties and erect a 30 foot steel wall that has no real security value - at a cost of $22.6 million per mile along the river - border residents are hosting emergency town hall events to alert local residents to the harm it presents to their communities.
“We’ve been through this before with the federal government, where we defeated their plans to destroy 71 river miles in our communities, which would have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion,” said El Cenizo Mayor Carina Hernandez. “Trump’s wall failed. It didn’t work, and won’t be completed. It did succeed at creating photo ops and raising political campaign funds. Rather than provide real solutions, the governor is trying to repeat that formula, knowing that walls don’t work.”
The state is targeting two communities in southern Webb County - Rio Bravo and El Cenizo. The town halls - set for Feb. 15 and Feb. 20 - are organized by El Cenizo Mayor Carina Hernandez, Rio Bravo Interim Mayor Amanda Aguero, Webb County Commissioner Jesse Gonzalez and members of the No Border Wall Laredo Coalition.
|EL CENIZO TOWNHALL||RIO BRAVO TOWNHALL|
|Wednesday, FEB 15||Monday, FEB 20|
|Lamar Bruni Vergara Public Library
510 Rodriguez, 78046
1701 Centeno Lane, 78046
|Refreshments: 630 pm||Refreshments: 630 pm|
|Start time: 7 pm||Start time: 7 pm|
“This is Big Government at its worst, coming in to squash the little guy and squandering hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars,” said Juan Livas, No Border Wall Laredo Coalition member.
Interim Rio Bravo Mayor Amanda Aguero said she wouldn’t accept any deal that would cut off her community from the Rio Grande and its riverside park: “You can’t put a price on our river.
Maria Hernandez, an El Cenizo resident, agreed: “They wouldn’t dare build something like this in Austin or near their mansions where they live. But for them, it’s fine to do this to us. They treat us like second class citizens and hope we’ll lie down and take it. We won’t.”
“We have gotten used to politicians from DC and Austin parachuting into town just for photo ops, who feel they can steamroll the voice of our communities,” says Pastor David Delgado of Rio Bravo Community Church. “Rather than listen to us, the State has worked around us, ignored us, and is now hemorrhaging Texas taxpayer’s money, for a purely political project. We know the truth: they feel like they treat us this way not because of where we are, but because of WHO we are. We are a 96% Latino community, mostly working class.”
Artist Shellee Laurent whose family has lived in both Rio Bravo and El Cenizo for decades agreed: “The truth that Abbott is not telling people, is that his vision of the wall is mostly gaps. It won’t address migration challenges. Instead, it will require eminent domain and confiscation of land at the federal level to complete, destroying our homes and lands, and demolishing our private property rights and property values.”
In January 2023, the state awarded two contracts to North Dakota-based Fisher Sand & Gravel ($224 million, 9 miles) and Galveston-based SLSCO ($137 million, 6.6 miles) for Webb and Zapata counties.
The massively expensive border wall project has a history of failures, misrepresentation, and fraud. In 2018 a group named We Build the Wall hired Fisher Sand & Gravel to build a 3 mile section of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley that is now at risk of falling into the river. Founders Brain Kolfage and Steve Bannon crowdfunded over $25 million for that project, and the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from that fund for their personal use led to their indictments on wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy charges.
In July of 2020, the DHS Inspector General found that CBP had not provided evidence to justify the expense of a multibillion-dollar border wall infrastructure project along the border. President Biden rescinded the 2019 National Emergency Declaration on Day 1 of his administration.
The #NoBorderWall Laredo Coalition is a network of residents, elected officials, & organizations who oppose the border wall. Website: facebook.com/NoBorderWallCoalition | Insta: @noborderwall_ltx
All photos taken in El Cenizo and Rio Bravo.
Courtesy: Jesse Herrera