Palms and Protest


I’ve entered the last remaining hundred acres of sabal palm forest ecosystem in the nation. Soon we will be cut off from it by Homeland’s Wall.

I walk a wooden boardwalk and marvel at the trees’ stature, the volume of their massive fronds clashing in the winds I’m sheltered from.

The river here, approaching freedom and the Gulf at Boca Chica, used to be a mile wide and up to 40-feet deep, a local conservationist tells me.

I can’t use any proper names here. You see, the clampdown is on. Both employees at the Audubon Sanctuary said they could not speak about the wall, could not tell me anything, in fact. Instead, one hands me a printout from the non-prof’s website. I can use this, I’m told.

I fumble with the pages as I hurry to snap pictures of this magnificent place.

They read in part:

Plans to build a physical border wall along the Rio Grande would essentially fence off Audubon’s Sabal Palm Center and other spans of critical wildlife habitat. This barrier will have disastrous unintended consequences for wildlife, nature-based tourism, and community education efforts in the lower Rio Grande Valley and could force the closure of the Center.

So, it is silence into obsolescence for Audubon South, apparently.

Next door, at The Nature Conservancy’s southernmost holding I speak with Texas’ southernmost householder (we are lateral to Miami here). Lips here have likewise been pinned shut.

Meanwhile, the many organizations that have come together to resist the construction of The Wall are pushing ahead with calls for a moratorium on construction. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Real ID Act can’t be far behind.

I find one aspect of the No Border Wall release particularly tantalizing.

The groups say that the moratorium was prompted in part by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s admission that no potential terrorists had ever been apprehended on the southern border. He told the New York Daily News last month, “I don’t see any imminent threat” of terrorists infiltrating from Mexico. (“Michael Chertoff’s Deepest Fears: Terrorists Entering U.S. from Canada,” February 10, 2008)

The groups note, however, that DHaudubon signS has frequently referred to the imminent threat of “terrorists and terrorist weapons” crossing the southern border in order to justify the breakneck speed of border wall construction …

The groups are also calling for an immediate suspension and repeal of section 102 of the Real ID Act of 2005, which gives Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff the power to waive all laws in order to build the border wall without regard to the negative consequences it will have in the border region. The groups say that such power concentrated in the hands of an unelected official makes a mockery of Democratic processes and places border residents under an undue burden, denying them the same legal protections afforded the rest of America.
Historically, these mighty palms stretched up the river as far as Roma and upcoast to Port Lavaca. For this reason, some historians believe that Spanish explorers in the 1500s first found the Rio Grande, calling it Rio de las Palmas.
In the rustle of winds, I find myself making plans to bring my daughter to sit beneath these trees. But will we beat the Wall?
There’s lots of more land being lost across the Valley. Here are the most recent Homeland docs for Hidalgo and Cameron counties…
hidalgo county
cameron county

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