President Donald Trump's plan to build a massive wall along the entire U.S. Mexico border has it's supporters and opponents among the residents who live on the Texas southern border. Last Saturday it was the anti-wall forces that wanted to make sure their opinion was heard. They staged a protest on the international bridge that connects Del Rio, Texas and Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.
As a Mariachi band played, several hundred people from both side of the Texas Mexico border lined up along the Del Rio Ciudad Acuna Bridge. Then they linked arms and cheered.
“We’re just border people which is something that a lot of people don’t understand ,” said Diana Ramon who was holding a sign that says ”Pro America Anti-Wall.”
“We have a big understanding back and forth – it’s economic – Its cultural – everything,” she said.
In the middle of the human chain that reached across the span stood Congressman Will Hurd.
“Thank you for getting me out of Washington D.C. –laughter- we didn’t have the greatest week this week,” Hurd told the crowd.
The recently re-elected Republican represents this massive congressional district that covers the majority of the Texas Mexico border.
Hurd is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. He had more bills signed into law than any other member of the previous Congress.
But now he might be at odds with the leader of his party, President Trump, over his signature issue – the border wall.
“I’ve been pretty clear, building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd said.
Hurd spent nine years working as an undercover CIA operative in the Middle East and South Asia. He pushing intelligence gathering over wall building for border security.
“We should be increasing our intelligence collection on 19 criminal organizations that are operating in Mexico and Central America. We work with our partners in Mexico to stop these problems from ever getting to our border,” he said.
Hurd said using technology to detect problems at the border will provide better results at a fraction of the cost.
A leaked report from the Department of Homeland Security estimates the cost of building the Wall at more than $21 billion dollars. And currently there’s doesn’t seem to be a way to make Mexico pay for it.
“With a wall you’re not getting much bang for your buck,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. The Democrat from San Antonio also joined the protest. He added he wants Republican Budget Hawks to take a close look at the project’s price tag.
“There are better ways of spending billions and billions of dollars than putting up a wall between the U.S. and Mexico," he said.
But billions and billions of dollars aside - the people who live here on the border like Ramiro Guzman say the wall is just not needed. And more people would know that if they took a good look at border life. “I think one of our biggest challenges is overcoming perception. People make a lot of assumptions and what we wanted to do is show off our two communities and really the close ties culturally – economically,” he said.
The cultural ties can be found in Ciudad Acuna sometimes in some usual places like at the Abby Road Beatles Museum and Cafe. It's just a few hundred feet from the international bridge.
The owner, Manuel Casillas, says the Beatles's music is something that unites both sides of the border.
"It's pretty cool and the kids really really like it." he said. "There are a lot of Beatle fans."
The walls are lined with historic photographs of the Beatles and all manner Beatlemania merchandise – dolls, toys, and framed animation cells.
“They're from the 1966 cartoons”
Casillas said he believes that if John Lennon was alive today he’d take a stand against Trump’s Wall.
“Doing a big concert against in in New York like he did against the Vietnam War.”
The economic ties are seen also in the truck traffic on the international bridge. Everyday thousands of big rigs rumble across – each paying a toll.
Del Rio Mayor Robert Garza explained to the crowd the bridge brings $7 million dollars annual to the city.
“The bridge is the single most important profit maker for the city. The money that’s coming from these profits is what’s paying for these streets to be paved. It pays for economic development.”
Plans are now in the works for a second international bridge for Del Rio. Because Mexico is modernizing the port in Mazatlán and the Durango highway much more cargo will be coming this way.
“We will now become part of the larger international market. We will now enter the global market scene.”
Garza says don’t build walls – build more bridges.