The mountainous desert terrain on Farm Road 170 between Presidio and Big Bend National Park, which is along the Rio Grande, is sparsely populated and formidable.
Many Texans who live along the U.S.-Mexico border support President Donald Trump, but their affection for the New York real estate mogul-turned-politician comes with a caveat:
They do not want a wall.
The Star-Telegram recently visited a 325-mile stretch of the Lone Star State’s boundary with Mexico to gauge attitudes toward the proposed wall. The trip included stops in Presidio, Big Bend National Park, Del Rio and Eagle Pass in late April, and visits with a farmer, a rancher, a wildlife biologist, a sheriff and people from many other walks of life.
The reasons for their opposition to the wall are as varied as the communities that sit along the Rio Grande. Some are concerned about losing private land to make room for the structure. Others warned that building a continuous wall could cause massive flooding. Still others spoke against the potential impact on wildlife, and the state’s natural landscape.
And many border residents said they had serious doubts that such a wall would succeed in reducing illegal immigration or drug smuggling — the primary justifications often cited by supporters.
“Trump has done some good things with immigration, but he’s 100 percent wrong about the wall,” said Dob Cunningham, 83, a lifelong rancher and retired Border Patrol agent who owns hundreds of acres abutting the border in Quemado, north of Eagle Pass. “I haven’t found anybody — and I know people from Nogales [Arizona] to Brownsville — who wants that wall.”
Statewide, 61 percent of Texans oppose building a wall, while 35 percent support it and 4 percent don’t know or declined to answer, according to a poll conducted in April by Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit leadership organization.
Residents of the Lone Star State who live, work and play along the international boundary with Mexico say they are happy that the Trump administration’s plans to quickly build the wall have encountered complications in Washington.
A dispute over whether to fund the wall nearly led to a federal government shutdown in March, until the president agreed to delay the plan possibly until September. On Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled a 2018 budget that includes $2.6 billion for stepped-up border security, including $1.6 billion for a wall.
Although 10 of 15 Texas counties that touch the border went for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election, many of the people interviewed along the international boundary in late April described themselves as conservatives, and several said they voted for Trump.
So their beef isn’t with the president himself.
It’s with the proposed wall.