McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Laredo City Council has approved the painting of a giant anti-border wall street mural in front of the South Texas downtown federal courthouse that would read “Defund the Wall.”
The council late Monday unanimously voted to allow the street art, which come at a time when street artwork is being done in other cities across the country to promote civil rights causes.
Similar to the Black Lives Matter street murals painted across from the White House in Washington, D.C., the Laredo mural is intended to send a message that Laredoans do not want a border wall constructed through their city and along its river, Tricia Cortez, an organizer for the No Border Wall Coalition, told Border Report on Tuesday.
“There’s been more than 20 street murals painted; Austin just approved theirs too. But we’ll be the first city on the border to have such a street mural specific to this issue as well. We’re really trying to send a message nationally,” Cortez said.
The group’s Defund the Wall, Fund our Future campaign, is aimed at showing how much infrastructure and economic boost the Laredo economy could get from the use of these federal funds in ways other than building a border wall, Cortez said.
The 14 miles of border wall is slated to go along the Rio Grande at an estimated cost of $275 million, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say.
“We believe that public art can ignite important conversations about what we value in our society, and what we want our future to be,” coalition member and filmmaker Karen Gaytan said. “We believe that if we say ‘Defund the Wall,’ the rest of the country will pay attention to what’s going on here, and listen to what we, the residents of Laredo, want for our future.”
“The wall is a sham. It’s a colossal waste of money.” said Juan Livas, a longtime community leader. “The wall is already falling apart in places across the border.”
The estimated $20 million cost per mile is enough to fund any one of the following, the group said:
- A Level II Major Trauma center for 3.3 years.
- The planting of 130,933 native trees.
- Full tuition, fees, room and board for 1,600 Texas A&M International University students.
- Salaries for 100 full-time Laredo College faculty for two years.
- Turn more than half the 50-bus El Metro fleet into electric buses.
“The good news is that the wall is not a done deal. We can stop it. There is a plan,” said Raquel de Anda, whose family has lived on the border for 50 years who’s home is threatened by the wall. “We asked the City Council for solidarity, and they showed that they are willing to stand with us.”
The group is distributing this slideshow to stir opposition to the border wall. Cortez said that all material and supplies needed for the mural will be funded by the nonprofit coalition.
CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan has said that a border wall system is a critical tool for Border Patrol agents because it helps slow or stop those who attempt to illegally cross into the United States, giving border agents time to respond and make an arrest.
In a statement announcing a new CBP webpage that features video, interactive maps and updates on the ongoing border-wall construction, Morgan said, “Border security is national security.”