Harlingen leaders reject anti-border wall resolution

HARLINGEN — By a split vote, the City Commission rejected a resolution opposing President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall.

One group says the city becomes the first in the Rio Grande Valley to reject the resolution.

Last night, City Commissioners Larry Leal, Michael Mezmar and Ruben de la Rosa voted against the resolution while Commissioners Tudor Uhlhorn and Richard Uribe supported it.

In the Valley, Cameron and Hidalgo counties and 15 cities have supported similar resolutions, Joyce Hamilton, whose group presented the resolution to the commission, said after the meeting.

“We’re not joining a total wall ban,” Leal said before casting his vote.

Mezmar told group members they had presented their resolution to the wrong governing body.

“This is a federal issue,” Mezmar said. “We have congressmen and representatives from the Valley. They’re the ones to be addressed, not us.”

Before the vote, Hamilton told commissioners the proposed border wall would threaten to destroy habitat of species such as the endangered ocelot.

“It’s extremely important to us that Santa Ana and all the national refuges be protected,” Hamilton, a retired college instructor, said.

Jodi Goodwin told commissioners their support of the resolution would help show solidarity among Valley leaders.

“As a combined, uniform force we can make a statement,” Goodwin, an attorney, said. “The least effective way to secure and protect our border is through the wall.”

Some group members appeared surprised the commission opposed the resolution.

Earlier this week, Mayor Chris Boswell said he supported the resolution.

Boswell, noting the city sponsors the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, said he believed commissioners also opposed the border wall’s potential encroachment on native habitat.

The resolution states “the city commission of Harlingen, Texas, endorses a border security strategy on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge that is minimally intrusive on natural habitat, preserving and protecting the old-growth native forest from the proposed 150-foot clearance for fencing and lighting and preserving the access for tourists and residents who have enjoyed this natural space since its dedication in 1943.”

According to the resolution, “the national and international birding communities have expressed grave concern about the proposal to build levee walls through Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center and other sensitive wildlife preserves along the (Rio Grande) river.”

The resolution describes the existing border wall as “the most expensive and least effective means of securing the border according to security experts.”