Laredoans protest on heels of lawsuit that calls border wall a product of ‘racism’

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Lawsuit charges border wall with 'animus against Mexican-Americans'

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A coalition of anti-border wall activists combined social distancing, art and a parade to protest the building of a border wall in the South Texas city of Laredo.

They decorated vehicles with signs and lined empty shoes and cowboy boots — a tribute to the region’s founding vaqueros — on the steps of the federal courthouse, where a lawsuit filed Monday alleges that building the border wall in that predominantly Hispanic region constitutes “racism.”

Melissa Cigarroa is president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Rio Grande International Studies Center. She is seen in this file photo on the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo on Dec. 17, 2019, leading a river sit-in to protest the border wall. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“We just wanted to draw attention to the lawsuit, which is a novel take because we are arguing that our constitutional rights have been violated and waived by construction of this border wall and that’s because we are Mexican-Americans and that constitutes an aspect of racism by the federal government,” Melissa Cigarroa, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told Border Report on Tuesday afternoon.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), along with U.S. Customs and Border
Protection (“CBP”), at the direction of President Donald J. Trump (“President Trump” or “Mr.
Trump”), are engaged in a full-on assault against the people who reside in Zapata County and Webb
County, Texas,” the lawsuit reads. “The people of Zapata County and Webb County, who are overwhelmingly Mexican American, are the targets of an animus that demonizes immigrants, Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and people who live on the border.”

Cigarroa, a landowner in Zapata County, along with Zapata County officials, and landowner George Rincon are listed in the lawsuit against Trump, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, and Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.

“Trump considers any protesters any others non-Americans and calls them racist and radical left and somehow less deserving of who they are and what they stand for,” Cigarroa said. “Through this lawsuit, we want a restoration of our constitutional rights.”

Through this lawsuit we want a restoration of our constitutional rights.”

Melissa Cigarroa

The lawsuit also calls for protection from the wall for the San Ygnacio Bird Sanctuary in Zapata County. County commissioners have repeatedly refused to allow federal border wall contractors onto their bird sanctuary property to survey.

“The wall is going to cause a huge amount of devastation to people and to land and to wildlife,” said Raquel de Anda, an artist whose family owns the de Anda ranch, near where CBP officials say they will start a 14-mile section of the border wall. De Anda and her husband, Gan Golan, helped to organize the show and cowboy boot protest on the federal courthouse steps.

Protesters decorated vehicles with signs reading “No wall,” “Protect our rights” and “No al muro and drove past the federal courthouse to avoid a large gathering in downtown Laredo on Tuesday morning.

“We are absolutely respecting public health guidelines around COVID so no more than five people ware permitted in gathering. This also allows people to have their voice heard against the border wall,” Golan said of the event, which was also broadcast on Facebook Live. “The empty shoes along the courthouse symbolize the vaquero through the cowboy boots.”

A participant in the anti-border wall event on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, drives their vehicle by the federal courthouse in Laredo, Texas. (Courtesy Photo)

“This is opposing the entire border wall project,” de Anda told Border Report, “and the constitutionality of the wall and unequal treatment of the Latino community.”

This is opposing the … constitutionality of the wall and unequal treatment of the Latino community.”

Artist and Laredoan Raquel de Anda

“We are citizens. We are not to be dismissed. Discrimination will not be tolerated,” Cigarroa said at a news conference following the event where Laredo City Councilman Mercurio Martinez also spoke.

Cigarroa is president of the board of directors of the Rio Grande International Studies Center, a nonprofit that studies the river, and she said they are doing everything to protect the Rio Grande from border wall construction. She says the Rio Grande is the only source of drinking water for the 260,000 residents of Laredo and Webb County and she worries that construction of the wall will cut off and impact the clean supply of water the community needs.

“We are just getting started on this roller coaster,” Cigarroa said. “But I think it is a strong case. Trump has made it clear he is driven by so much hatred.”

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