Letter: Consenting with silence

To the Editor:

On Oct. 18, the Harlingen City Commission voted down a resolution opposing the border wall, the construction of which would wall off Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the “jewel” of the national wildlife refuge system and the number one birding destination in the Rio Grande Valley.

The vote was especially disheartening as Harlingen hosts the oldest and still largest birding festival in Texas.

A Texas A& M study in 2011 documented nature tourism bringing in $463 million annually to the Rio Grande Valley, and birding is the biggest part of that.

The three no-voting Commissioners may support the border wall, or they may just be indifferent to it.

But to say it is not the city’s business simply doesn’t fly.

A federal issue is everybody’s business – that’s the democratic process. The Birding Festival and nature tourism is everybody’s business.

Saving what remains of our natural heritage is everybody’s business.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has said publicly that the border wall has widespread public support.

Remaining silent reinforces that presumption of support. I was absent from the 10/18 City Commission meeting because I was with a group of local refuge supporters in Washington D.C. speaking out to Congressional and Senate staff to oppose any funding to build more border walls, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley.

One of the information sheets we carried was a color map showing the cities and counties in the Valley which had passed resolutions opposing more border walls.

Staff members were particularly interested in that map and several asked to make copies of it.

They were truly unaware

that the majority of residents along the border are opposed to border walls.

This makes the Harlingen Commissioners’ indifference even more troubling.

The type of wall slated for Santa Ana (and many other refuge tracts along the river) is a levee-wall, a 18-20 foot vertical concrete wall with an 18 foot steel bollard fence on top of that.

When the river goes into flood, which happens on average every 10 years (most recently in 2010), waters rise and spread out all the way to the levees.

With a vertical concrete wall, no terrestrial wildlife of any kind will be able to escape the flood. What had been a refuge becomes a deathtrap.

Are the Harlingen Commissioners indifferent to that as well?

Jim Chapman V

ice President, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor