U.S.-Mexico border wall could strand towns in no-man’s-land

Daniel Garza, 74, talks about a proposed border wall from his backyard in Granjeno, Texas, Wednesday. A proposed border fence could cut through property of about 35 homes in the city along the border. The Associated Press, Eric Gay

AP

Daniel Garza, 74, talks about a proposed border wall from his backyard in Granjeno, Texas, Wednesday. A proposed border fence could cut through property of about 35 homes in the city along the border. The Associated Press, Eric Gay

GRANJENO, Texas – Founded 240 years ago, this sleepy Texas town along the Rio Grande has outlasted the Spanish, then the Mexicans and then the short-lived independent Republic of Texas. But it may not survive the U.S. government’s effort to secure the Mexican border with a steel fence.

A map obtained by The Associated Press shows that the double- or triple-layer fence may be built as much as two miles from the river on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, leaving parts of Granjeno and other nearby communities in a potential no-man’s-land between the barrier and the water’s edge.

Based on the map and what the residents have been told, the fence could run straight through houses and backyards. Some fear it could also cut farmers off from prime farmland close to the water.

“I don’t sleep right because I’m worried,” said Daniel Garza, a 74-year-old retiree born and raised in Granjeno. Garza said federal agents told him that the gray brick house he built just five years ago and shares with his 72-year-old wife is directly in the fence’s path.

“No matter what they offer, I don’t want to move. I don’t want to leave,” Garza said, his eyes watering.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Congress has authorized $1.2 billion for 700 miles of fence at the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. The plans call for about 330 miles of virtual fences – cameras, underground sensors, radar and other technology – and 370 miles of real fences. About 70 miles of real fence are set to be built in the Rio Grande Valley, at the southeastern tip of Texas, by the end of 2008.

    The Rio Grande has been the international boundary since the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 ended the Mexican-American War. But officials say that putting the fence right up against the river could interfere with its flow during a flood and change its course, illegally altering the border.

    The map obtained by the AP shows seven stretches of proposed fence in the Rio Grande Valley, including one section that could cut through the property of about 35 of Granjeno’s nearly 100 houses. Exactly how many Rio Grande Valley residents could lose some or all of their property is unclear.

    Local residents, many of whom oppose the wall, say they have been assured they will be compensated at fair market value for any property taken by the U.S. government. But that has not given them much comfort.

    “We want to be safe, but it’s just that this is not a good plan,” said Cecilia Benavides.

    “It gives Mexico the river and everything that’s behind that wall. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”