August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, December 18, 2008

El Paso woman arrested protecting Wetlands from border wall construction

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Judith Ackerman arrested while protecting Rio Bosque Wetlands from the destruction of border wall construction

By Carlos Marentes
Photo by Bill Addington
EL PASO, TEXAS - Today, at about 2 p.m., Judith Ackerman, a member of a growing number of border residents against the border wall, was arrested by officers of the Texas Department of Public Safety ("The Texas Rangers") at the construction site inside the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. She was attempting to stop heavy machinery and equipment from entering into the park which is the only remaining spot of real wildlife in El Paso' border.

A small group of border residents were in the area to show their support for Judy's action and to protest against the wall. The border wall contractor called for help to remove Judy. An impressive number of officers from the State, Federal, County and City law enforcement agencies arrived quickly to detain Judy and harass the rest of the demonstrators. Even Border Patrol officers moved to the area to stop American citizens from moving close to the border area. The officers approached many of the protesters to intimidate them but the protesters refused to leave the area. A woman was detained for almost three hours for interrogation. Many more received threats of more arrests if the group continue protesting against the construction of the border wall.

The construction of the border wall represents a serious threat to the already fragile ecosystem of the Rio Bosque. Plants and animals who had survived the predatory maquiladora model of economic development still live on this place. Some of these plants and animals are in the endangered species list. But thanks to concerned border residents, environmentalists, conservationists as well as faculty from UTEP and city employees have worked for many years to restore the ecosystem of the park. The construction of the wall will cause irreparable damage to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park of El Paso.

Once completed, the wall will cover almost 70 miles from Sunland Park, New Mexico, to McNary, Texas. The wall will separate the border communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. Both cities used to be part of one community, the El Paso del Norte. The war against México created the current border and divided the El Paso del Norte, but both communities retained their common language and culture and developed deep family, social and economic relationships. The border wall is more than 18 ft. high and the estimated cost is more than 7.5 million dollars per mile. The cost of the wall is considered an offense by the people of El Paso, the Fourth Poorest City in the Nation.

Judy was released from jail and she expects to be charged by the arresting authorities. More arrests may occur since the demonstrators have expressed the commitment to continue the struggle to stop the construction of the border wall.

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