My backyard is on the border. To me, “build that wall” is not a slogan. To me, the fight over a border wall is not an abstract argument about politics. To me — and to my family and neighbors — construction of a border wall is personal.
My family has lived on land along the Rio Grande in Starr County, Texas, for at least five generations. I have lived on this land for more than 40 years; my father lives next to me, alongside the land where my grandfather lived. We still use a wooden corral built by my great-grandfather for keeping farm animals. My grandchild and nieces and nephews play in the same places where their parents and grandparents played.
In all my time here, I have never seen an “invasion” of criminals or drug traffickers or gang members rushing across the border, as the president described in a press conference. In fact, I can’t remember ever seeing a migrant cross the river from Mexico and come across my family’s property. To do so, someone would have to climb up the soft bluff that runs alongside the river at the end of my property. The natural barrier of the river and the bluff makes my family’s property unattractive as a crossing place.
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As my family and neighbors can tell you, and could tell the president if he asked, there is no invasion in the Rio Grande Valley, no emergency here, no need for a wall across our land.
Trump’s unfair, unlawful emergency declaration
Because Congress would not appropriate the amount of funds the president wants to build a border wall, he declared a national emergency on our southern border to try to free up billions of dollars to build a wall.
The president circumventing Congress is unlawful, as my lawyers at Public Citizen have explained in a legal challenge filed against the president on the same day he issued his emergency declaration. While my lawyers will argue the legalities of the president’s action, the bottom line for me is that the federal government is threatening to take my land to fulfill a campaign promise but without any need.
I have received letters from the U.S. government stating that the government is going to take me to court to gain access to my property and build a border wall across my land. The maps they sent me show a wall and a maintenance road to be constructed just a few feet from the back of my house. They describe a 150-foot wide enforcement zone and a 25-foot wide road between my house and the river — but the river is only 200 feet from my house, and the land closest to the river is unstable and subject to erosion.
In January, I called a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers realty specialist to ask how they could possibly fit the border wall and enforcement zone between my house and the river. They told me that they were going to build the wall even if they had to squeeze it in.
Even if my house itself is spared, it will never be the same. I will lose my entire backyard, and I will be staring at a wall right outside my back door and windows. My family’s property next door, where we enjoy family gatherings and the ranching lifestyle, will be divided by the wall, with about two-thirds of the land on the south side of the wall.
I live on a peaceful stretch of property along the river in South Texas, in the United States of America. To me, “build that wall” is not simply a slogan; instead, it is a threat to my way of life, my liberty, and my property.
There is no need for a wall across my and my family’s property.
No emergency exists here.
Nayda Alvarez is a teacher and landowner who lives on the Texas-Mexico border.