MISSION, Texas – President Trump's signature promise, a wall on the southern border, is in the works as bulldozing crews are spotted clearing a path at a private butterfly conservation near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The owners are angry. They claim construction contractors are trespassing on their land.
Maximino Munoz, the National Butterfly Center’s director of operations, escorted the KENS 5 Border Team through the 100-acre property, which is bisected by a levee near the border in rural Mission, Texas.
Munoz opened the Border Patrol gate at the edge of the levee in order to access the south side where he says one of his colleagues caught a government-contracted crew a week ago conducting measurements and cutting trees and plants to widen a dirt road that leads to the Rio Grande River.
“You can see there was a chainsaw used here,” Munoz said as he pointed to the damage to the trees.
Munoz believes the government is working behind the scenes, looking for properties on the border to build the President’s border wall
“Their disregard for everything that we have here. They didn’t even bother to inform us that they were coming or that they were going to do something,” Munoz said.
No phone call, no email, not a single notice said Munoz.
The center is concerned the activity will further disrupt the habitat for wildlife in the area, while a wall could destroy it. However, Munoz said there is room for compromise.
“There are ways to do it it’s just that we need to communicate, we need to find out,” Munoz said. “You can’t just come into private property and do what you need to do.”
Customs and Border Protection wouldn’t confirm if the actions at the butterfly center are indeed part of the new border wall. The agency released the following statement:
“Currently we are in the research and planning process for construction of new wall so it would be premature to speak about specific locations. At this point, the only specific projects that we’re going to be working on, are the 35 gates in the Rio Grande Valley as authorized by the enacted FY17 Budget. Basically, there are a number of gaps on the wall through RGV and those gates will be installed to close said gaps.In regards to new Wall construction projects in the Rio Grande Valley, funding will come from the FY18 budget.”
For Munoz and the National Butterfly Center, their greatest concern is not with law enforcement presence on their land. It’s the fact that they’re not involved in the plans that could devastate their property.
“If they can do that to us, then imagine what they can do to anybody else who owns any piece of land,” Munoz said.
The National Butterfly Center said they had scheduled to meet with CBP officials Tuesday. CBP later canceled that meeting without explanation, the center said.