Special Reports

ONLY ON ABC-7: No appetite for Border Wall in rural Texas community

The border wall special

EL PASO, Texas - Homeland Security Secretary General John Kelly reiterated during a visit to El Paso last month the Trump administration's commitment to building a wall along our nearly 2,000 mile long border with Mexico.

Right now, there are different kinds of barriers over 650 miles of the border.

ABC-7 recently visited Presidio, Texas, about 250 miles Southeast of El Paso, to find out firsthand if there is any desire to build a wall and what obstacles such a plan might face.

We were met with overwhelming opposition to building the wall in Presidio.

To learn more about the City of Presidio, click here.

To take a closer look at gaps in the current border fence, click here.  

Brad Newton, Presidio's Municipal Development District Executive Director, said "99 percent of the population here really doesn't see a need for it. Everybody seems comfortable living with Mexico."

Presidio shares a border with Ojinaga, Mexico and in 2008 passed a resolution opposing a border wall, which based on current estimates, could cost between $12 and $21 billion.

"We just really don't want it to happen. Presidio and Ojinaga are really just one big community," said Presidio Mayor John Ferguson.

"Even through all the problems that Mexico has had over the years, Presidio and Ojinaga never lost our bond that keeps us together," Ferguson said, "So for such a wall to be built would be sickening to see happen."

ABC-7's Rick Cabrera asked the mayor if there is support for building the wall and if his constituents are expressing a desire for it.

"Yeah, there are some people who say that and I respect them for what they feel," Mayor Ferguson said, "But I think most people here who truly feel like they are citizens of the area and have family and friends, on both sides, they are just like 'nah that's not where we are at here.'"

Along the Rio Grande in Presidio, much like in a majority of Texas, the land next to the river is privately owned.



The U.S. government shouldn't have any problems taking that land because the 5th amendment allows for the use of eminent domain, but the fifth amendment also requires just compensation and that's the problem.

Experts warn that could lead to long court battles and big delays.

"I don't know what they are going to do. If they are going to put up a wall are they going to take the water rights away from me? I don't know because how am I going to irrigate? Are they going to make a tunnel?" asks L Armendariz, who owns 356 acres along the Rio Grande.

"We started farming onions, cantaloupes, you name it," said Armendariz.

ABC-7 asked Armendariz: after investing so much time, effort and money and energy into his property, if he would be willing to sell it to the federal government?

"No. Would you want to if it was yours," he asked.

Armendariz also said safety is not a concern and he's not worried about people illegally crossing the river.

"We have border patrol and they patrol the area," said Armendariz.

A rugged terrain and wildlife impact are other hurdles anyone looking to build a wall in the Presidio area will need to overcome.

"It would be impossible. It would cost 10 times more than they think it would cost. Building a wall it's a wildlife corridor, too. Animals can cross back and forth and some of them are endangered species," said Charlie Angell with Angell Expeditions.

He's been guiding trips down the Rio Grande for a decade and his frustration over plans to build a wall were apparent.

"If they build a wall there I can sell all my boats. There's no need. I can't float the river anymore so that's the end of that. It's cut and dry," Angell said, before adding, "I guess I can take people on tours to see the wall. Just like they do with the Great Wall or the Berlin wall. Two other dumb ideas that didn't work out also."

It's easy to see how incredibly difficult it would be to build the wall near Big Bend Ranch State Park. There the Rio Grande is constantly turning this way and that and there are 50-foot cliffs in some parts.

The overriding fear in Presidio is the possible damage to their economy.

"We depend on a lot of tourism dollars to come and see Big Bend Ranch or Big Bend National Park. Thousands of motorcyclists every year. It's a great ride. It's one of the top 10 scenic roadways in North America, but who wants to drive down the road and see a great man-made wall," Newton asked.
During our three hours in Presidio, ABC-7 didn't come across anyone in favor of the wall.

However, there are definitely some along the border of Texas who very much support building a wall.

ABC-7 spoke with Lynne Richardson, who lives near Van Horn and Valentine, Texas - about 10 miles from the Rio Grande.

She told us "walkers and drug traffickers are a daily occurrence."

"We have border patrol out here inconsistently. We have drones and listening devices in the mountains behind us. It's what you would call a virtual wall," said Richardson, "So to me any deterrent along the river that would prevent the illegals from walking over, or the people who are carrying the drugs, would be a benefit."

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