What you see is what you get

Luciano Guerra voted for Trump and now he’s surprised and sad that Trump is shoving a border wall right down the middle of the wildlife center where Guerra works.

I work at the National Butterfly Center — which is along the U.S.-Mexico border — documenting wildlife and leading educational tours. Many of our visitors are young students from the Rio Grande Valley. When they first arrive, some of the children are scared of everything, from the snakes to the pill bugs. Here, we can show them animals that roam free and teach them not to be afraid. We talk about how we planted native vines, shrubs and trees to attract some 240 species of butterflies, as well as dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects. The bugs brought the birds — including some you can’t see anywhere else in America, like Green Jays and Chachalacas — and from there, the bobcats and coyotes. We want to teach kids what it takes to create a home for all kinds of animals.

President Trump’s new border wall — which he has threatened to shut down the government to fund — will teach them what it takes to destroy it.

The first section, funded by Congress in 2018 for construction starting early next year, will cut right through our 100-acre refuge, sealing off 70 acres bordering the banks of the Rio Grande. The plan that we’ve seen calls for 18 feet of concrete and 18 feet of steel bollards, with a 150-foot paved enforcement zone for cameras, sensors, lighting and Border Patrol traffic.

There will be flooding. The animals won’t be able to range the way they did. Lights will be on all night. Bulldozers will bulldoze.

We’re not the only ones standing in the wall’s path. It will also slice through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and in Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park — which draws birdwatchers from all over the country and has hosted countless picnics and barbecues for local families like mine. The wall will cut through the park’s land that is behind its parking lot and visitor center. There isn’t much public open space in the Rio Grande Valley. What’s there is fragmented and precious to all of us: According to a 2011 estimate, ecotourism brings $463 million a year to our economy and supports more than 6,600 jobs.

I’m a lifelong Republican who voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016.

Thinking what? That he’s a lover of butterflies and wildlife and fragile ecosystems? That he would leave big holes in his Wall for the National Butterfly Center and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park? That he would do the right thing?

I have little if any sympathy. Trump is plain about what he is and he is not given to self-reform.

People have asked me, “Didn’t you listen to Trump when he said that he would build a wall?” I didn’t take the idea seriously during the campaign. I knew he couldn’t get Mexico to pay it — that’d be like asking Hurricane Harvey to foot the bill for rebuilding Houston — and thought it was just talk: another candidate making big promises he couldn’t keep. I never thought it would actually happen.

I know, it’s like all those earthquakes and hurricanes and wild fires we see predicted; we never think they will actually happen.

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