© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Border & Immigration

Laredo Veterans Join Calls Against The Border Wall

Jorge Martinez speaks at a gathering with the Laredo chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the No Border Wall Coalition.
María Méndez | Texas Public Radio
Jorge Martinez speaks at a gathering with the Laredo chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the No Border Wall Coalition.

Veterans and the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens joined a coalition against President Trump administration’s push for a border wall in the Laredo area on Thursday.

Standing in front of a large sign that read “Stand with vets, stop the wall, defend Laredo,” on the border city’s downtown riverfront, they spoke out against the wall. 

“The Rio Grande is my statue of liberty,” said Valentin Ruiz, a U.S. Army veteran. “And every veteran that served from Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexican brothers and sisters that joined us in the military of the United States, they share that sentiment. That’s why we need to fight for it, to keep it free.”

He said he fears the border wall will cut off access to the river, where he used to go fishing with his father as a kid. He also recounted President Donald Trump’s negative remarks against late Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war, and recent reports of the president calling those who died in war “losers.”

“He delegitimizes veterans,” Ruiz said.

First Sergeant Jorge Martinez, who joined the army after moving to Laredo from Nuevo Laredo, echoed Ruiz’s concerns about access to the river.

“Laredo is known for the bridge, the water, and the park,” he said, pointing to the river underneath the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge and the Los Tres Laredos Park. “That’s what makes Laredo, so by you taking that part and putting a wall, people will come from all over the world to see family or visit, that’s what they’re going to see. They’re going to remember Laredo by a wall, and to me, that’s a political move. It’s not necessarily what the people of Laredo need.”

Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have said they will compromise with the city to build a bulkhead, or levee-style barrier, that would not obstruct the view in downtown Laredo, but Martinez said he’s also concerned about construction proposed in public parks and the Sacred Heart Children’s Home.

“It’s unbelievable that I would give up my life for our country, but that country wouldn’t care about our water or our lives at all,” said Maxine Rebeles, a teacher who served in the navy. 

She says she wishes the Trump administration would fund schools and community needs instead of the wall. It awarded two contracts for more than half a billion dollars for wall construction in the Laredo area this summer.  

“Right now, many families are hurting. This pandemic has turned our lives upside down. We should not be wasting money on this useless wall. We need to defund the wall and instead fund our future,” she said.

The group, Veterans United To Stop The Wall, plans to retouch the “Defund the Wall. Fund Our Futures” street mural this Saturday, which the No Border Wall Coalition said has been damaged from traffic and vandalism.

Local Trump supporters are planning a Trump Train parade that same day. They had planned to drive over the street mural. But Trump Train organizer Hector Garza, who is also president of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, said they agreed to change their route to respect the coalition’s event and the painting of a separate “Back the Blue” street mural this Saturday.

María Méndez can be reached at maría@tpr.org or on Twitter at @anxious_mariaShe is a corps member of Report For America.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.