The view south through a steel I-beam that will reinforce the 18 foot wall. Back to the Wall Can Janet Napolitano stop the border fence boondoggle? By MELISSA del BOSQUE Photos by PHYLLIS EVANS As President Barack Obama champions change in Washington, D.C., Eloisa Tamez waits to see whether an 18-foot steel and concrete wall will be built in her backyard. The Department of Homeland Security has already taken Tamez to court in an effort to condemn a piece of property, a mile inland from the Rio Grande, that has been in her family since the 18th century. The wooden survey stakes that sprout from her land remind her that the bulldozers could arrive anytime. “Just about every week, DHS announces that they will start building,” Tamez says. “It seems to be some kind of strategy to keep everybody here uptight and nervous.” If that’s the strategy, it has worked. Last February, the Observer wrote about Tamez’ fight to keep her land in El Calaboz, a small rural community west of Brownsville \(“Holes sued the federal government, held several protests against DHS on her property and, in the process, become an international spokeswoman for indigenous rights. \(Tamez is part the slow grind of a Washington bureaucracy that demands she forfeit her land to make room for a border wall that could end up costing taxpayers $30 billionand which bypasses golf courses and resorts but targets working-class families and landowners like Tamez. A new presidential administration and a new Homeland Security chief could bring an end to Tamez’ troubles. Along with the 121 other border residents embroiled in lawsuits with DHS, Tamez is cautiously optimistic that Janet Napolitano, Obama’s new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will stop the construction before it’s too late. “Once the wall is built, it means that DHS has lawlessly taken my land,” Tamez says. “It will take me until my last days to right that wrong. And after I am gone, my children will have to take up the fight.” In 2006, with the passage of the Secure Fence Act, Congress mandated the construction of 670 miles of fence along the southern border by the end of 2008. As of Jan. 21, according 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 6, 2009
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