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Pho to by Na ncy Man is ca lco Mauricio Valle, Brenda SanchezGalan, and her 18-month-old daughter were also riding. Mauricio Valle and Brenda Sanchez-Galan were Lutheran religious workers in El Salvador. Valle had left the country after his father and sister had committed suicide following unremitting death threats to the family by the Salvadoran military. The threats were made because Valle’s father, a nurse, had treated a guerrilla. SanchezGalan, a nurse, had worked for the Lutheran Church in San Salvador, treating refugees forced from rural areas by the fighting. She had fled El Salvador with her husband when friends were killed by death squads. Her husband remains in Mexico City. U.S. Attorney Jack Wolfe subpoenaed Valle and Sanchez-Galan to appear as material witnesses before a Brownsville grand jury. At the same time, attorneys for Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen said they had been unable to see their clients Valle and SanchezGalan while they were detained by the Border Patrol. In a February 24 hearing before Federal Magistrate Susan Williams, Border Patrol criminal investigator Charles Young said that while SanchezGalan had at one point asked for an attorney during a three-hour interrogation in Rio Grande City, she had signed a document waiving her right to an attorney. Young also stated that Valle had told him he’d entered the U.S. “illegally.” Under cross-examination, however, Young admitted that Valle had, instead, said that he’d crossed the Rio Grande without being questioned by immigration authorities. In defending Times Herald reporter Jack Fischer, attorneys Chip Babcock and Jay Ethington said the case raised serious First Amendment questions. “If this charge is not dismissed, there’s no question but what it will be a chilling effect on the press,” Babcock said. “No story of this nature will be published in the future. . . . If this reporter is in jeopardy because of his mere presence at the scene of [an alleged] crime, every reporter in the U.S. who covers crime is in serious jeopardy.” The Valley Monitor reported that, as part of his testimony, Charles Young had read into the record an article by Fischer about the episode, which had appeared in the San Antonio Express. Attorney Ethington revealed, however, that the Express story was a reprint of a Times Herald story with one significant change. The Express version had deleted the word “only” from a line in Fischer’s original story, which had read: “As a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, I was only with them to tell the United farmworkers holding on. group’s story.” Merkt, Muhlenkamp, and Fischer face a maximum five years in jail and $2,000 fine per refugee if convicted. Valle, Sanchez-Galan, and her daughter face deportation to El Salvador if not granted political asylum. Church workers say this amounts to death sentences. According to Jack Fischer, Muhlenkamp believed the Border Patrol had received a tip leading to the arrest. A story circulating in the Valley is that the car was stopped by the Border Patrol because they thought it was a spot-check by Border Patrol superiors. Jack Elder thinks the Border Patrol got much more than it had bargained for in making the stop: “two Catholics, three Lutherans, one reporter an ecumenical effort.” If the case is prosecuted, the federal government will find itself in a battle with the religious community and the news media. This is a confrontation the government would probably just as soon have avoided. CONSIDER THE BORDER between this First World nation and the Third World to the south. In many respects it may not be a dividing line at all. In the early 1700s, the region around the Rio Grande was sparsely inhabited by small groups of Native Americans and by titleholders to land grants distributed by the Spanish crown. Aside from the Rio Grande and its immediate environs, the land in this region was arid for hundreds of miles to the north and to the south. After Mexican independence in 1821, the Mexican government began ceding large land grants in its northeasternmost sections to colonists from the United States in an effort to settle the Texas territory and prevent its annexation by the United States. When, by 1834, the Anglo-Americans outnum bered the Mexicans by six-to-one, it was obvious that the plan had failed. While the newly-created Republic of Texas claimed the RioGrande as its border, there was no Anglo settlement south of the Nueces River, running through central and east Texas some 120 miles to the north. Mexico claimed its state of Tamaulipas extended north to the Nueces. In 1846, when General Zachary Taylor crossed the Nueces to occupy South Texas, Mexico considered it an act of war, and the U.S.-Mexican War began. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending that war in 1848, established the Rio Grande as the border and ceded to the United States nearly half of Mexico’s existing territory as far north as what is now California, Nevada, and Colorado. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853, providing a railroad pass through southern Arizona, completed the present border geographically. But its demarcation was of negligible importance to the few inhabitants of the region. The U.S. census shows that the more than 120,000 square miles of South and West Texas north of the Rio Grande were inhabited by no more than 50,000 people in 1880. El Paso had 4,000 citizens, and San Diego numbered 3,000. The original land grant families dominated social life in the area, with branches on both sides of the border. Commerce took place as if there were no border between Brownsville and Matamoros, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Even Texas law fluctuated between Spanish codes and British-North American law. The state originally retained mineral rights to lands granted citizens, as under Spanish law, then switched to the British practice in the 1860s, giving the grantee mineral rights, and later, between 1895 and 1931, reinstituted the state’s claim to mineral rights on remaining state lands. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11