EDITORIAL: Feds: Keep studying RGV before building a wall

That a top administrator for the Department of Homeland Security came to the Rio Grande Valley and spent two days touring the Rio Grande Valley — and in particular the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is where a border wall is proposed to be built — is significant.

While we appreciate that the acting under secretary for science and technology, William Bryan, and several members of his staff took the time to come and study the terrain and this unique and absolutely beautiful Alamo preserve, which is home to so much flora and fauna, we are concerned that it could signal the administration is closer to starting plans for a border wall at this national preserve and regional jewel.

Hopefully their tour has given them a better understanding of how a border wall at this site could destroy wildlife and the habitat that supports it.

We also hope they are better versed now on how building a border wall also would cut into private Valley lands, disrupt businesses here and cut us off from our Mexican neighbors, which could impact our local economy.

U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Irma Chapa told Monitor Reporter Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro that Bryan took a “full-length tour” that included “air to the ground” and spanned from Weslaco to Rio Grande City.

We encourage more tours by high-ranking officials and with the purpose of studying how a border wall would affect our Valley communities — not just with the intent of determining where to lay stakes and start digging for a wall.

We also encourage officials at the federal level to hold town hall meetings with the public, which by all accounts is hungry for information on what the government has planned for the RGV.

Many families have been approached by officials regarding their lands, and there is much confusion and uncertainty over what they should do and why.

Thanks to organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project, which has held forums like one in Roma on Oct. 17, to help educate homeowners on their rights. And we respect their candor in pointing out the serious implications that a visit by Bryan could have on the wildlife refuge.

But with little more information other than that he was here, we can’t know for certain why. We respectfully request our federal leaders to be more transparent and approachable with our community. And we look to Congress to scrutinize all plans prior to authorizing funding for this controversial border wall.

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