Safety and Practicality, or Government Intrusion?

A fence along the Mexican border. It may seem like a good idea in Washington and other points north in America, but consider that any fence along the border is also a fence across Texas.

And that has some Texans furious at the construction project that is already grinding its way through the state.

In 2005, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to build a fence -- some call it a wall -- across large swaths of the border. CLICK HERE to learn more.

The fence, 15 to 18 feet high, is already up for miles along the west, but it hasn't yet made its way to east Texas, toward the southernmost tip of the state.

People there are still protesting the intrusion of the government onto their land.

"I was approached by the Border Patrol back in August that my land was in the path of the proposed wall," said Eloisa Tamez, a professor of nursing at the nearby University of Texas-Brownsville. "I was taken aback because I had no idea that they were going to build a wall north of the levee."

That's because north of the levee is not only on her property, but in her backyard. If built, the fence would separate her from the rest of her land, which sits along the banks of the Rio Grande.

"They called me at work, and I was on the telephone in my office and I said, this sounds like pretty serious business," she said. The Department of Homeland Security wanted her to sign a waiver that would allow surveyors access to her land for 12 months, to best determine where to build the fence.

"They said, you know, 'Have you heard of eminent domain?' And I said, 'Yes, I've heard of eminent domain.' And he said, 'The law has been passed, the wall will be built, and we need to get onto your land to survey,'" said Tamez.

She refused to sign the waiver, twice. The government is now suing her for access to her land.

Tamez won the first round, but even she said she probably won't be able to stop the fence. That's in part because Congress granted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff permission to waive any laws that would interfere with the erection of the fence.

"Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation," Chertoff said in a statement last week. "Congress and the American public have been adamant that they want and expect border security. We're serious about delivering it."

To Tamez, "the building of this wall is the erosion of our democracy. It is the tearing down of our democracy. And where we in America have stood for democracies and going over to countries and saying, 'You're not a democracy, we need to help you. We need to tear down those walls that you have,'" she said, referencing President Reagan's famous demand that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down" the Berlin Wall.

Racist or Practical?

That argument, that the fence carries with it a dangerous symbolism, is one also made by Pat Ahumada, the mayor of nearby Brownsville, Texas. "It's racist," he said bluntly.

Ahumada is angry about what he thinks the fence will do to his city: slice off a piece of land along the waterfront. While the Department of Homeland Security has promised there will be some kind of access to the land on the southern side of the fence such as gates, or manned entrances, Ahumada says Brownsville still stands to lose out.

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