Thousands protest at the border as Trump tours Texas wall site
Trump's wall has no appeal to people who live right on the border. | Eric Gay/AP

McALLEN, Texas—Thousands descended on McAllen, Texas,  Jan. 10 to protest GOP President Donald Trump’s visit and his plans to erect part of his Mexican Wall there.

Chanting “No border wall,” and drawing long and sympathetic honks from passing motorists in the southern Texas city, the demonstrators made it clear that Trump’s Wall would devastate families, businesses, farms, the environment, trade and even life and death.

Trump didn’t pay attention as he toured the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol station, plus a nearby wall site, in McAllen for what even he – cursing out his aides – termed “a photo op.” But he also didn’t budge on his demand that Congress kneel in obedience and give him $5.7 billion to start the wall.

He even threatened declaring an alleged “national emergency” to allow him to take the money for his wall from the Pentagon or from disaster relief funds intended to rebuild after the California wildfires and the hurricane in Puerto Rico. His right-wing xenophobic anti-Latino base loves the idea of a  wall, but many foes call it racist. And the numbers of those foes increased as hundreds of thousands of federal workers received paycheck with a big fat zero in the net pay box. They are among the growing numbers of Americans literally held hostage by the president’s refusal to end his government shutdown until Congress bends to his will.

Texas residents living on the border are among those most vocally opposed to building a wall “We aired frustration with the Department of Homeland Security,” one speaker at the outdoor rally said.

Trump’s “anti-immigrant campaigns” have caused “discord, death and destruction” in Texas border communities, one young man wielding a bullhorn and standing atop a ladder at the anti-wall outdoor rally told the crowd.

Protesters included members of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network/Immigration Working Group, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality, the Texas Civil Rights Project – which is noted for sending lawyers pro bono to represent migrants the Border Patrol picks up and jails – the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Proyecto Juan Diego, Proyecto Azteca and Fuerza Del Valle.

“The only border crisis is the one created by President Trump for political gain at the expense of the rights and the lives of migrants who have the right to seek asylum at the U.S. border,” Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Border Rights Center, told a press conference before the protest.

“The crisis created by this administration also harms the people in our border communities, who have rallied to provide migrants with needed humanitarian aid and overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s wall obsession,” she continued.

“Additional barrier construction would devastate our homes and environment, result in massive land seizures by the federal government, and stand irreparably as a monument to hate and xenophobia. Trump’s repeated lies portraying the border as dangerous are racist and echo the rhetoric of white supremacy, not facts.”

“There is no crisis on the border except the one created by the president and his divisive policies,” added LUPE Executive Director Juanita Valdez-Cox.

“If we are truly talking about security, border communities need the security of well-paying jobs, quality education, robust healthcare, and dignified housing and neighborhoods. Demand $5 billion for that and border communities will welcome your arrival…Demand a wall and more border militarization and we’ll tell you to keep your hateful, divisive politics out of our communities.”

As for Trump, “He is not welcomed at Rio Grande Valley, and we do not need a wall,” she said.

But even before he traveled to McAllen, Trump said he’d invoke the “national emergency” to get the money to build his wall if Congress doesn’t kowtow to his $5.7 billion demand. The Democratic-run U.S. House resolutely refuses to do so.

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will. I have no doubt about it. I will. I have the absolute right to declare,” Trump thundered. “I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do that. I would almost say definitely…. This is a national emergency.

“If we don’t make a deal, I mean, I would say 100 percent but I don’t want to say 100 percent because maybe something else comes up. But if we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency.”

Such a move would certainly be challenged in the courts as unconstitional and even lawmakers who think Trump may have the authority to declare such an emergency say they are opposed to it. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has become Trump’s water boy, has been urging publicly that Trump make the move.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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