The demilitarization of the border has begun as quickly as the buildup began, and that includes the removal of some of the razor wire that troops laid along the river. Officials all along the Rio Grande Valley, which shares many of the elements that prompted the removal, should make a similar request.
ABC news reported last week that troops had begun taking down the coils of concertina wire in the Laredo area. The wire is strung with razor-sharp barbs to deter any crossings. Customs and Border Protection officials said about 2 miles of the wire had been removed after city officials there complained about the wire, which in some areas ran near city parks. The wire posed a hazard to children, skateboarders and cyclists who utilized the park and the areas around it.
Some of the wire has been removed in the Hidalgo area as well, and it should be extended all across the local border, for both economic and environmental reasons.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, issued a statement also saying that the barriers would be removed. Cuellar stated that he had talked to Joint Task Force-West Director Manny Padilla, who had said the wire was placed to deter the thousands of Central American migrants who were coming to the border.
Those migrants, however, differ from the illegal crossers people normally think about. Most of these people are refugees fleeing dangers in their home countries, and are coming directly to our official ports of entry to turn themselves in to border officials and request asylum; they aren’t trying to cross surreptitiously.
Laredo officials also complained that the barrier had affected cross-border relations as well as the city’s economy. Mayor Pete Saenz said a group of U.S. customs brokers had called off a planned gathering in the city because the wire and other signs of the military presence gave them the impression that the area was not safe — which contradicts Laredo’s low violent crime rate, he said.
Saenz, who is chairman of the Texas Border Commission, told ABC News that the Trump administration had fabricated the migrant crisis, “at what cost? The cost to the local economy. The cost to our livelihoods here at the border area.”
Laredo City Attorney Kristina Hale noted that the action was ordered by the Defense Department, which neither sought nor received permission from local officials to place any structures on city property.
Obviously, the issues raised in Laredo apply all along the border. The Rio Grande Valley, however, has the added concern about the welfare of animals that migrate across the river and must weave through the razor-sharp wire. Such wildlife includes the critically endangered ocelot and jaguarundi.
These elusive, nocturnal creatures are rarely seen and might be forgotten by many people outside the Valley. But local residents generally know, and appreciate, that these animals are a vital part of the region’s special, and sensitive, ecosystem. They should not have to deal with the injuries they could endure as they try to maneuver through the coils of razor-sharp barbs.
We trust that officials will raise the pressure on our military to completely remove the barriers, as they are doing more harm than good.