In the city of Mission,TX, activists are expected to gather at Our Lady of the Guadalupe Catholic Church for a prayer walk to La Lomita – the chapel that inspired the city’s name – ending on the chapel’s grounds with a rally and picnic.
USA Press Today Network – Texas
MISSION, Texas — Gracie Ramos is accustomed to her beliefs taking her miles by foot across South Texas streets.
She and the other faithful of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church trek each Palm Sunday from the large brick church to the small, simply structured La Lomita, a chapel not far from the banks of the Rio Grande and the inspiration for the name of the city where she has always lived — Mission.
Saturday, she and hundreds of others walked the same 4-mile route through the heavy August air. There were no palms in hand. Instead, they carried signs condemning President Trump’s proposed border wall and promoting care for the community’s natural and cultural assets.
On the sloped, graveled levees that lead away from the main road — the last half-mile stretch to the chapel — is where construction of a border wall has been proposed.
Community leaders say doing so would likely cut off the historic church from the rest of the city, trapping it in a no-man’s land between the wall and the winding, languid Rio Grande.
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Shortly before dawn, at least 250 people gathered in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and made the walk to the chapel for a rally where speakers pushed for leaders to reject the wall and called on residents to take action.
Ramos has decades of memories at La Lomita and its grounds. As a child, her parents brought her and her siblings to the chapel for picnics, and as an adult, she brought her children there.
Sometimes, it’s a place she just likes to look at, she said, or meditate or pray. It’s important that La Lomita be protected, she said.
“Right now, we just don’t know where (the wall is) going to go,” Ramos said. “And we’re very troubled about that.”
A proposal shown in what are described as federal “predecision” maps, stamped with the date of July 21, shows a border wall running through Hidalgo County that activists say would heavily impact the chapel and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Authorities have emphasized that the documents and discussion are preliminary, and no decisions have been made. They have also said that construction would include ways to access U.S. properties south of the wall.
Father Roy Snipes leads a march to La Lomita chapel down Conway Avenue in Mission, TX in protests of the proposed Texas-Mexico border wall on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)
That’s little comfort for community and environmental advocates, who have expressed doubts that they are being adequately informed and question what ultimately the plan would look like.
The construction of a border wall was a signature promise made by Trump during his campaign. Cost estimates have ranged wildly between $4 billion to $67 billion, according to media reports.
The concept has proved deeply divisive. Proponents have said a wall is necessary to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, citing waves of drug- and human trafficking. Opponents argue it would be an ineffective approach and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Among the speakers at a rally following the march was U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes a portion of Hidalgo County.
“It would be a huge failure for American history,” he said of the wall. “We would be on the wrong side of history. The international community is watching us. I think it would be a shameful act if we go through with this.”
Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas earlier this month helped introduce a bill — dubbed the Building America’s Trust Act — intended to boost border security resources, including bolstering the numbers of federal agents and injecting more funding for the ports of entry, according to a news release.
The bill also calls for “the deployment of multi-layered tactical infrastructure across the full Southern Border, which at the DHS Secretary’s discretion could include a wall system, fencing, levees, technology, or other physical barriers,” states a summary sheet linked on Cornyn’s website.
“For too long law enforcement on the front lines haven’t had the tools they need to stop the flow of illegal immigration, and this bill will provide both the resources and plan to finally secure the border,” Cornyn stated in the news release. “This legislation requires DHS to work together with the communities they serve, and helps boost the flow of commerce through our ports so trade can continue to flourish.”
Father Roy Snipes, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, described La Lomita as the root of the community and “the mother of our parish.”
Originally built in 1899, it carries enormous significance, Snipes said Friday.
“There are problems with immigration,” he said. “We don’t think we know how to solve them all. But we do think a wall is obnoxious and obscene in all kind of ways. Especially a wall between us and this beautiful chapel.”
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