HEREFORD — Hundreds of people, young and old, turned out Sunday to make known their displeasure of a planned barrier to prevent people illegally crossing the border from Mexico spanning the San Pedro River.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for the health and protection of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA), but the Trump administration waived the 1988 act which formed it, along with 40 other state and federal regulations and laws.
Currently, it is not known what type of barrier will be used across the San Pedro River. Even so, people wanted to take action and show support of the river and the wildlife that call it home.
“Hands Across the River” on the Hereford Bridge drew people from across southern Cochise County and beyond with one message in mind: “Save the river.” Some were on crutches and others used walkers and canes.
Samantha Leyrer brought her 7-year-old daughter Serena to her first rally along with her 3-year-old son Colson, who rode in a wagon. Serena had no time to talk, as she was chanting: “Protect our river, water is life.” Leyrer said she supports the effort to stop construction of the border wall.
Tad and Linda Pfister drove from Nogales to show support for the San Pedro and its denizens.
“We hate the wall,” said Linda Pfister. “We’ve seen it in Nogales with all the razor wire. It’s ugly. We love this river and it has enough pressure on it already.”
Mary Means showed some optimism for her cause, saying, “Maybe I’m looking through rose-colored glasses, but it’s possible things won’t happen before the election. And, it can always be taken down … at our expense.”
Hereford resident Susan Bortman commented, “Water is our life here, for people, animals, birds. We have to protect the river.”
Glenn Spencer, a Trump supporter whose land abuts the border, said at the gathering down at the river, “I live right on the border. My backyard overlooks the spot where the river crosses the border. There is a quarter-mile gap in the wall at the river before an older border fence continues to the east. I understand the gap is there to account for the river and monsoon flooding.”
Spencer, who has designed and promotes his own technology-based border-patrol method, says there is a better, far less expensive method of controlling illegal border crossers with sensors and drones.
“Technology exists that can detect whenever a person is walking 500 feet away,” he said. “When a person approaches from the south, an alarm goes off pointing to the spot, so the agent can move into position and prevent entry. It can be done all along the border.”
He developed a system called “Seidarm,” which uses sensors with a detection range of 500 feet. A computer algorithm determines if the signals are people, animals or low-flying aircraft and within seconds provides a readout and sounds an alarm if necessary. Seidarm is buried in pipe and cannot be cut. It is solar-powered and waterproofed.
Michael Gregory, a McNeal resident who was instrumental in forming the SPRNCA, told the crowd, “In 1988, after more than 10 years of public campaigning and political horse–trading, the endangered San Pedro riparian area was given federal legal protection in a bill passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan.
“Now, another president is trying to override dozens of laws and regulations — including the one that created the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area — in order to build a wall that will serve no purpose but political ambition.”
Laiken Jordahl, Center for Biological Diversity, visited the wall construction across the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and videoed what he saw there.
“Bulldozers are toppling over 200-year-old saguaros in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to build the border wall,” he said. “And just to our east, a few dozen miles away, Border Patrol is sucking up millions of gallons of precious desert groundwater to mix concrete for the border wall at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. They’re stealing this water from ranchers, from wildlife and from future generations, pushing endangered species to the brink of extinction.”
One Hereford resident came to find out what was going on with the river. Layce Phillips, who suffered a brain injury which paralyzed her left side, explained, “I wanted to see what was being protested. Everyone should stand up for what they believe in. But, no one knows what’s being built. I asked a few Border Patrol agents and they didn’t know, either. I support border security, but I would like to know what’s going up before it goes up.”
So would most of the people who came to Sunday’s rally.
Dan Devries, a volunteer who helped herd people along the roadway and caution drivers across the one-way bridge, was pleased with the turnout, “though, honestly, it will probably not have an impact moving forward. But we need to get our opinions out there.”