Texas

Some In Valley Say Border Patrol Keeps Them In The Dark When It Comes To The Wall

Construction begins in February on an eight-mile stretch of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley, but some against the wall say they’ve been barred from planning meetings.

Existing border fence in Brownsville.

On a brisk, windy morning at the Texas-Mexico border, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is being briefed on the deployment of about 7,000 active-duty troops on the southern border.

Mattis, alongside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, offered words of support to the troops whose mission is to stop a caravan of asylum-seeking migrants.

As Mattis spoke, another meeting concerning the future of border security was happening not far from the Army’s base camp. And there, things did not go so smoothly.

“It’s a farce,” says Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, which is a wildlife sanctuary on the Rio Grande. She has been a vocal opponent to the border wall.

Trevino Wright says she was emailed an invitation to the Border Patrol meeting that called for landowners and stakeholders, but when she showed up, the McAllen Police were called and she was ordered to leave.

“I know that they are small, stupid, vicious people but I didn’t know that they would take the opportunity at the landowner and stakeholder meeting to act on that,” Trevino Wright says.

Trevino Wright says she was told she was being ejected from the meeting because she shared the Evite to the meeting on her Facebook page. Karla Vargas is a staff attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project and is representing the Butterfly Center.

“There is nothing in the email itself that says, ‘You cant disseminate this,’ that says ‘This meeting is closed,’” Vargas says.

Vargas also tried to attend the meeting but never made it past the parking lot.

“As soon as my colleagues and I tried to go in, Border Patrol immediately denied us entry, saying that the meeting was only for a limited number of individuals, and they had a list, and only the people who were on the list were going to be let in,” Vargas says.

Vargas says when they tried to speak to someone at the Border Patrol about the meeting, they were not given any information and ordered to leave.

“They then contacted the McAllen Police Department and tried to have us escorted. When we asked what was going on they said, essentially, the Border Patrol wanted to charge us with criminal trespass if we did not vacate the premises,” Vargas says.

Vargas says the Texas Civil Rights Project has attended previous Border Wall meetings for landowners and stakeholders and there were no issues then. She says it’s important that lawyers for the landowners are allowed to attend.

“And so, we are just trying to ensure that individuals have access to correct information and what their rights are so they can exercise those rights,” Vargas says.

Trevino Wright says she’s heard from other landowners who were allowed to attend the meeting, and they tell her little information was provided about the pending construction of the border wall.

“They don’t intend to tell anyone what’s gonna happen to the land they’re a steward of. They have not been transparent or forthright up to this point. Why would anyone think that’s going to change going forward?” Trevino Wright says.

Customs and Border Protection officials were not available for comment.

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