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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Hundreds of people march Saturday along a levee in South Texas toward the Rio Grande to oppose the border wall the U.S. government wants to build on the river separating Texas and Mexico.

Sunday, August 13, 2017 1:00 am

Protesters gather at site of proposed wall

Associated Press

MISSION, Texas – Hundreds of protesters marched Saturday in Texas' first major protest against a border wall, crossing the earthen Rio Grande levee where President Donald Trump's administration wants to build part of the first phase.

The protesters launched what's expected to be a fierce movement against Trump's best-known immigration policy priority. Many of the participants acknowledged they might not be able to stop a project that the U.S. government is already planning, but they hoped to draw national attention to the cause and persuade lawmakers who have yet to sign off on funding for the project.

“We might seem small and insignificant. Maybe we are,” said Anthoney Saenz, a 19-year-old native of the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost point of Texas and a region where Trump has proposed putting 60 miles of wall as part of a $1.6 billion proposal.

“But when our voices come together, when we band together as a community to try to get a voice out there, we have to hope we get heard,” he said.

Organizers of Saturday's protest wanted to make clear the depth of local opposition to the border wall, which as proposed would cut through a federally protected wildlife refuge and split apart several border towns. Some 40 groups took part in the protest, from environmentalists to landowners' rights groups to immigrant advocates.

While the U.S. House has passed a spending bill with funding for the wall, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democrats and some Republicans have spoken against it.

Government contractors have already been taking soil samples along the Rio Grande levees and have begun to examine property ownership records for the land condemnation lawsuits a border wall would likely require, according to local officials and landowners near the river.