Walls are rising in the Rio Grande Valley. Contractors are sharpening their shovels downstream of El Paso. Texas is finally seeing what many dismissed as an unlikely event: The start of construction on hundreds of miles of hulking walls, fences, and barriers running along the Rio Grande.
In one week, what could be the last major push by Wall opponents kicks off on a lonely stretch of road between Big Bend country and El Paso del Norte, an isolated boundary where more than 50 miles are about to receive new, towering shadow effects.
Jay Johnson-Castro of Del Rio has been staging protest walks solo and en masse since Congress passed the Secure Fence Act and Bush signed it into law in October 2006, all in the hopes of raising the nation’s awareness of Homeland Security’s pet project now redefining our border.
How many miles have you walked yourself?
Somewhere around 825 miles since October 2006.
And what was it initially that switched inside of you that `said` this was something you had to do?
I live in what I consider a model border community, Del Rio and Acuña, and we do not consider ourselves separated. We recognize that there’s this invisible, international boundary, and we have two forms of government, but when it comes down to We the People, we are a community. I could not deal with, without a certain amount of outrage, the idea that our government would put a Berlin-like wall between us … I said, “Well, I’m going to do something really weird. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ll do a protest walk.”
It was the Secure “Fence” Act, but the majority of the plans I’ve seen are for something more substantial than people think of when they think in words like “fence.”
Yeah, “fence” is a branding. It is to deceive one’s mind. We don’t look at a prison and think “prison fence,” we say it’s a wall. It may be impenetrable, razor wire on top, surveillance and all of that, but you’ve seen the pictures of San Diego and Arizona. I mean we’re talking about massive walls. Essentially, here in Del Rio, it was a replacement of a 15-foot fence with a 15-foot fence, and there was no extension of that. We didn’t end up with a 62-mile wall.
Which you will be protesting up toward El Paso.
That will be a wall. That won’t be a fence. That will be a massive barrier. Yeah, 56.7 miles. And they’re preparing for it now.
How do you respond to people when they bring up the issue of terrorism? Is there any way a wall can keep the bad guys out?
I guess this has been one of the things I have tried to expose from the very beginning.
When I’m on the road, and I’m on the road a lot, I’m an avid listener of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I feel it’s an opportunity to see what the Dark Side is thinking.
You have a strong stomach.
(Laughing.) Well, it’s a way of finding out what their plans are. I heard them saying, “Listen, we’re losing ground on Iraq. We’re losing ground on FEMA, Katrina. We’ve got all these sex scandals and corruption charges in Washington, so we need to kind of divert America’s attention away from all those issues in order to stay in power mid-term elections. Let’s reground here and let’s call the U.S.-Mexico border the terrorism pipeline.” And that was the term that was being used in mid-2006 toward November: Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism.
We were able to get out the facts that that’s not where the terrorism came in. The terrorism came in with legal approval of our best security forces, our intelligence. They knew who they were. They knew what they were doing. And they did not come in from Mexico. They would not be marching across cliffs and desert in order to bring in nuclear stuff here. They come in legally.
So terrorism is no longer in the equation. What is in the equation is the xenophobia, the Mexiphobia.
So when they talk in terms of the economic impact of human migration, you’re saying what they’re really talking about is code language for their own racism?
Of course. But at the same time, there’s a deeper and darker picture. Defense contractors have been running this thing for a long time. You’re talking about 66 percent of the staff that runs `Secure Border Initiative` are citizens, not government personnel, and they’re related to defense contractors. Boeing, for instance, it’s already got $1.4 billion in contracts. They want this to happen. Then when you add into the equation Lockheed Martin and all these other organizations who are going to try to tap off the $49 billion in bids that are going to go out, then you add in the arrival of Blackwater and DynCorp and you start seeing there’s a shaping — we are in a militarized zone — but there’s a shaping for a war zone. Another theater in which they can sell their products.
Is this `march` a final push to get the country’s attention?
It is a major push. I don’t know that it’ll be the final push. It’s part of our Last Stand, let’s say. Texas is really the major battleground here. We have 64.7 percent of the entire U.S.-Mexico border, 370 miles of wall is supposed to have been built. We feel like we’re prevailing. We take our losses in any war, but we’re gonna win this war. •
For march information, contact Javier Pérez at (915) 474-4930 or [email protected]