The Wall

The Texas Observer has covered the expansion of the Texas-Mexico border wall for more than a decade. As property owners’ rights have been gobbled up, cameras have been planted by federal agents in wildlife refuges and ecological damage inflicted by the wall’s footprint, we’ve never stopped reporting. And we’ll continue to report — that’s what we do. Catch up with a curated selection of our border wall coverage below.

2008

Holes in the Wall

border wall
The border fence in Hidalgo.  Jen Reel

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security marches down the Texas border serving condemnation lawsuits to frightened landowners, Brownsville resident Eloisa Tamez, 72, has one simple question. She would like to know why her land is being targeted for destruction by a border wall, while a nearby golf course and resort remain untouched. Read more.
 
 

Engineer Who Helped Build the Wall Details Its Weaknesses

“The wall is a joke,” Joseph Jarvis said in January. “It does nothing to preclude ingress of narcotics and people.”

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Documents: CBP Ignored Federal Biologists’ Input on Border Wall

Border security officials visited wildlife preserves in Starr County, then blew off the recommendations of the scientists they brought along.

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‘Thrown Under the Bus’: Rio Grande Valley Residents Criticize New Border Deal

Some South Texas residents aren’t convinced the bargain’s a victory for the region they call home.

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Butterfly Refuge Files Restraining Order Against Feds Over Border Wall Construction

A South Texas nature refuge is asking a judge to order federal agents and wall contractors to keep out.

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Texas Teacher Could Lose Her Home If Trump Gets Any More Border Wall Funding

The feds are moving on Starr County land that they don’t have funding to build on yet.

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Can a Beloved Texas State Park Survive Trump’s Wall?

The state parks department has pleaded with the administration to save Bentsen state park from the wall.

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Indigenous Activists Set Up Protest Camp at South Texas Cemetery to Stop Trump’s Wall

A small group of activists and allies say they’ll stand in front of the bulldozers.

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Texas Border Sheriffs: There is No Crisis and We Don’t Want Trump’s Wall

Local lawmen don’t believe a wall will do any good.

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2010

All Walled Up

A section of the border wall near Camp Lonestar.
A section of the border wall near Camp Lonestar.  Jen Reel

The next time the Department of Homeland Security came calling, all pretense of “friendliness” was gone. With real estate specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in tow, they now had pointed words. Congress had mandated the building of a 670-mile fence along the southern border in its 2006 Secure Border Fence Act. Sign the form or not, residents were told: The government will get its land. Read more.
 
 

Documents Reveal Where Trump Plans to Build His Wall in Starr County

New maps show that the president means to build through 162 tracts of private land.

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Border Residents Roast Plans For Trump’s Wall in Congressional Committee

“When did the U.S. government get in the business of giving away the United States of America?”

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Audio: Border Patrol Plans to Light Up Butterfly Refuge Like a ‘War Zone’

Trump’s wall is headed for a 100-acre butterfly sanctuary in Texas.

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Trump’s Border Wall is a Vortex of Stupidity

The Wall has morphed into one of the dumbest policy debates in the history of American politics.

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2017

Over the Wall

Eloisa Tamez has to pass through a gate to access her property south of the wall.  Eugenio del Bosque Gomez

“Well, OK, I’ll talk to you,” Eloisa Tamez told me. “But you’re the last reporter I’m ever going to speak with.” It was late March, and CNN, NPR, the BBC and countless other media outlets had converged on the Rio Grande Valley to report on the “big, beautiful wall” that President Trump had promised to build. Tamez was one of the first people they sought out. For years she had been a leader of the landowner resistance in South Texas, speaking out often and eloquently against the folly of a wall. Read more.
 
 

The Border Fence vs. Wall Debate is a ‘Trap’ for Democrats

“Steel slats, concrete barriers, or bollard-style fences – they are all the same,” said a McAllen congressman.

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Congressman Makes Last-Minute Move to Save Landmarks from Trump’s Wall

A state park, a butterfly preserve and a 120-year-old chapel are high on the list for wall construction.

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In South Texas, the Catholic Church vs. Trump’s Border Wall

A charismatic priest and the local diocese hope to save a 120-year-old chapel near the Rio Grande.

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2017

Field Notes from Santa Anna

A rope bridge extends between two observation towers, giving visitors a sweeping view of the tree canopy and wildlife below.  Eugenio del Bosque Gomez

The wall is as much a state of mind as it is a physical construction, built less as a show of strength than a show of fear: fear of the inconstant borderland, the blended space where things move according to their own rhythms. The patchwork woodlands and wandering waters, the creatures at the edge of their range and those expanding beyond it: The wall has no place for them. Read more.
 
 

Border Patrol Calls Cops on Lawyers, Activists

Nine activists and civil rights attorneys voluntarily left a “stakeholder” meeting after Border Patrol told McAllen police they wanted to press trespass charges.

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Border Residents Protest Trump’s Wall in Hidalgo County

Activists and landowners called on Rio Grande Valley residents to resist construction of a wall and protect property rights and wildlife.

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The Texas-Mexico Border Wall Comes With a Dangerous Side Effect: Flooding

CBP has a history of building border infrastructure that exacerbates flooding.

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2018

Swan Song

birding, salineno, border, rio grande, nature preserve
Many of the bird species in Salineño exist nowhere else in the United States.  Kate Sutton

The Salineño Preserve is one of many wildlife sanctuaries — including better-known destinations like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park — at grave risk if Trump’s wall is built as planned. The preserve’s tiny size and its location sandwiched between the river and the village mean that it could literally be wiped out. Read more.
 
 

Efforts to Inform the Public About Trump’s Wall Are ‘Careless’ and ‘Inadequate,’ Advocates Say

So far Border Patrol hasn’t held a single public meeting in the Valley about its border wall plans.

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Trump’s Border Wall Could Decimate These Rare Species

The 1,900 mile (3,000 km) Rio Grande supports a number of rare plants and animals.

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Trump’s Border Wall Lands Rio Grande on List of Nation’s Most Endangered Rivers

33 new miles of border wall could be the “last nail in the coffin,” environmentalists say.

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2019

Trump’s Wall Is Coming to Texas. Meet Its First Victims.

Fred Cavazos at his property along the Rio Grande.  Gus Bova

Fred Cavazos, 69, has lived his entire life along a bend of the Rio Grande just south of Mission, Texas. Though he suffered from epileptic seizures as a kid, he helped his dad and grandparents grow cotton, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupes and corn on their 65 acres of riverside land. Later, he helped run a family grocery that now sits shuttered next to his house, a sign still emblazoned with his uncle’s name and a Coca-Cola logo. “A lot of people from Mexico would come by,” Cavazos remembers. “They wouldn’t even have money. My grandfather would write everything down: a book of matches, one penny, four eggs, a penny each.” Read more.
 
 

Houston Photo Exhibit Documents First Markers of Modern U.S.-Mexico Border

Taylor’s project is a modern-day exploration of a region that has become a newfound terra incognito.

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National Butterfly Center Sues Trump Administration Over Border Wall

The butterfly center is home to at least 100 species of butterfly.

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After Observer Report, Watchdog Requests Investigation into Border Wall Gag Order

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense,” says watchdog group.

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The Documents Behind Trump’s Texas Border Wall Plans

The records give the most in-depth picture of the wall to date.

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Records Show Where Trump Plans to Build Texas Border Wall

The 15 segments of wall would tear through three wildlife areas in the Rio Grande Valley

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