Activists Vow Fight as Congress Funds Portions of Border Wall

Last week Congress voted to appropriate some monies to build new fortifications along the United States-Mexico border, but border activists in Rio Grande Valley say the fight against President Donald Trump’s border wall is far from over. The nearly $1.6 billion in border wall funding included in the omnibus spending bill that Trump signed Friday provides for the construction of some 33 miles of new walls, all in Texas’s ecologically-important Rio Grande Valley. Those walls will tear through communities, farms and ranchland, historic sites, and thousands of acres of protected wildlife habitat, while creating flooding risks on both sides of the border. But far from admitting defeat, border activists have already begun mapping out next steps to pressure Congress to slow down or even halt the wall’s construction. Read more in Sierra.

Swan Song

“Cha-cha-lac! chacha-lac!” As I crunched my way down a gravel path bound by an impenetrable thicket of mesquite and cacti, I heard the chicken-like tropical chachalacas raucously squawking a truncated version of their name. Moments later, a dog barked to announce my arrival, precipitating a flurry of beating feathers. By the time I glimpsed the RV around the corner, there were no birds left to see. “Don’t worry,” said Merle Ihne, looking up from a shovel that he was using to clear waist-high invasive guinea grass. Ihne, whose bushy white beard and jolly demeanor couldn’t help but invite Santa comparisons, pulled out a green plastic chair repaired several times over with makeshift plastic thread. He motioned for me to sit in the shade of the RV. “We can talk all we want, but the birds are sensitive to movement,” he said. “If we just sit still, they’ll be back.” Read more in the Texas Observer.

Hundreds Rally to Oppose Border Wall, Support Clean Dream Act

Hundreds of people gathered on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, kicking off the rally with a cheering rendition of “Las Mañanitas,” the traditional Mexican birthday song. The atmosphere, however, was one of determined resistance, not celebration: The Trump administration has singled out the refuge as its first priority for border wall construction, and the future of immigrant Dreamers across the country remains in doubt. Read more in Sierra.

The Day Shift

“La calavera,” the caller intoned, as Beatriz García placed a turquoise glass bead over the skull-and-crossbones icon on one of the two brightly colored cards on the table in front of her. It was 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning at Lindos Momentos Adult Day Care in McAllen, and the chalupa — a bingo-like game featuring iconography drawn from Mexican folklore — was already in full swing. Beatriz, 74, has five children and worked for 21 years in a local elementary school cafeteria. Her husband, Guillermo, sits at her side. He’s 80 and picked cotton for 25 cents an hour as a migrant farmworker in his youth, and later worked as a handyman. When they both retired in 2004, they tried staying at home, but found it hard to manage on their own due to Beatriz’s bad knees, Guillermo’s health woes, including quintuple bypass surgery, and their youngest son Ray’s schizophrenia and depression. So they decided to give adult day care a try. Read more in the Texas Observer…

Dance Without Borders

In the opening moments of “La Bruja,” a traditional folk dance from Veracruz newly reinterpreted by the New York City-based Ballet Nepantla, a spotlight trains on a barefoot dancer in a red dress — the witch — pirouetting at center stage. She is soon joined by a shirtless male “victim” who executes a series of acrobatic lifts as they take turns pursuing one another across the stage. It’s a prototypical contemporary ballet duet, until something surprising happens: Six dancers in flowing white dresses and high-heeled shoes emerge from the wings and place flickering candles atop their heads. Their feet strike an intricate pattern as the candles remain stationary, as though levitating. Meanwhile, the contemporary pair weaves in and out of the folk dancers in an ethereal braid entwining new and old, seduction and pursuit, and life and death.  Read more in the Texas Observer.

Super Tuesday for the Border Wall

Seven cities across Texas’s Rio Grande Valley approved anti–border wall resolutions Tuesday in a unified show of grassroots opposition by the communities that would be most impacted by the wall’s construction. As environmental and immigrant-rights activists scrambled from one city hall to another at meetings that lasted from noon to after 9 P.M., McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, Palmview, and Sullivan City all unanimously approved resolutions. They joined the cities of Brownsville, Mission, La Joya, and Weslaco—as well as the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court—which had already gone on the record against President Trump’s planned wall.  Read more in Sierra…

The Endangered Baby Turtles in Harvey’s Path–And a Desperate Race to Save Them

As storm surges drown eggs and rough surf strands weeks-old hatchlings, workers at Sea Turtle, Inc., a rescue and rehabilitation non-profit based on South Padre Island, are racing to save endangered sea turtles. Rescue center staff began preparing for Harvey on Wednesday, collecting eggs from nests along 50 miles of beach from the Rio Grande River to Port Mansfield. “We knew the surge would be significant enough that that the eggs would have been drowned, said Jeff George, Sea Turtle, Inc.’s executive director. Read more in the Washington Post…