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US government gears up for border wall construction in RGV

A photo album by Jonathan Salinas of SouthWest Valley Constructors corporate office in Mission, Texas, from which this U.S. Government contractor prepares to build walls, taken 1 May 2020.

Congress has allocated billions of dollars since 1996 to build border walls on the southern U.S. Mexico border, from California to Texas. The 2006 Secure Fence Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan agreement, called for 700 border wall miles, dozens of which were built well into the Obama Administration's first term in office, despite campaign promises to cancel border wall contracts. Dozens of border wall miles were erected from Cameron, Hidalgo County to El Paso County, Texas.

Since 2018, Congress has appropriated nearly $4 billion for new border walls along the Rio Grande, from Laredo to Brownsville, a region which once made up the borders of a short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande in the 19th century. In Mission, Texas, SouthWest Valley Constructors company — who's been awarded over a billion dollars to build dozens of miles of border walls in the region and in other states — has established its regional corporate headquarters near the river.

South West Valley's corporate office is on the west side of Conway in Mission, Texas, south of Old Business 83 and the Mission Hike and Bike trails.

Beginning last Spring, rusted, 18-foot tall steel bollards lay across a vast landscape on the edge of an irrigation canal on Conway for as far as the eye could see. In late 2019, contractors cleared dozens of natural habitat acres on a parcel of land to the immediate south of the steel bollard site. SWC told us Friday portable buildings on the premises host offices and don't house workers.

According to representatives for the National Butterfly Center, which is just down the road from the steel bollard staging area and South West Valley Constructor's corporate headquarters, native wildlife like Texas Tortoises, bobcats, coyotes, snakes and javelinas near the property, resulting from the clearing of native Tamaulipan Thornscrub just months before, have been displaced.

The poisonous Silverleaf Nightshade grows across the street from South West Valley Constructors in Mission, Texas, off Conway, south of Expressway 83. Although its leaves and berries are highly toxic for humans, Native Americans used its roots for medicinal purposes.

Although the environmental destruction border walls will cause is widely known, I have to admit the destruction involved in merely preparing for mass-ecocide was something for which I as an anti - border wall activist had been unprepared. Local activists believed that although the federal government unquestionably sold us out at least "our local officials" would "stick up" for "us." In 2017, the City of Mission passed a resolution opposing "Trump's Wall," as did many cities across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Evidently, they meant nothing.


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