Verify: Building Trump's wall

A Verify viewer wants to know if the security provided by a wall is more important than the rights of land-owners whose property is in the way.

He's been saying it since the campaign and now President Donald Trump is asking Congress for $23-billion dollars to finish the wall with Mexico and improve security.

On Verify, I take real people on the road. They ask their own questions, see what I see and reach their own conclusions.

Sherman Powers is a Verify viewer, a registered nurse and a world traveler. He supports Trump and the wall.

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“I think for the greater good of the nation that we should complete the project and see where it takes us,” Sherman said before his 2-part Verify adventure begins

I'm taking Sherman to Texas' Rio Grande Valley and US-Mexico border. He wants to know if the security provided by a wall is more important than the rights of land-owners whose property is in the way.


Our first stop is the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, known for world-class bird watching and endangered animals. We're talking with environmentalist, Jim Chapman.

“What's the importance of this land?” I ask Jim.

“The importance is this has, it's 2088 acres. For its size, it has a wider variety of plants and animals than any other wildlife refuge in North America.

The US and Mexico have a treaty preventing either side from building in the Rio Grande Floodplain. To avoid that, in some places, the wall must be up to a mile north, into Texas. That isolates tens of thousands of acres on the south side of the wall, including virtually all the Santa Ana Refuge.

“There will be gates, but when are they open? When are they closed? Who has access?” Jim said.

“All this is behind the gate?” I ask.

“This is behind the wall now. This will be what people call no man's land,” Jim said.

“Do you think national security is more important than homeowner or landowner roads regarding building of the wall and keeping the country safer?” Sherman is asking Jim.

“I don't think it's an either/or. I think you can do both,” he said. “There are ground sensors, camera sensors, stuff that I don't even heard of.”

“Refuge tracts should not have walls,” he finishes.

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Jim said the walls the government proposes are so steep they will create a 3-mile long, concrete cavern. In a flood, animals could not escape.

A document from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, obtained by the Sierra Club through the Freedom of Information Act shows a “probability” that hundreds of rare Texas tortoises died this way during a 2010 flood in nearby wildlife area that has a wall.

“Essentially, all terrestrial animals are going to get drowned or washed down stream,” Jim said.

“How catastrophic would that be?” I ask him.

“It would be biblical. Think about it. Nothing that couldn't fly, would die. And there's no ark,” he said. “It's the worst conceivable design. For wildlife, you could convene room full of experts and come up with the worst possible design for wildlife, that's it,” he adds.

What’s Sherman thinking now?

“When you look at the border, there are going to be places, where a wall just doesn't make any sense. You got to look at bigger picture,” he said before we leave the Refuge.


“I know every square foot of this place. I really do. Literally,” said Bob Lucio.

He ran the Fort Brown Golf Course in Brownsville. During the first phase of wall construction, there was uncertainty about the fate of his course because it would be on south side of the wall.

“It seems like they wanted a buffer zone from the river to the fence, or to the wall. And they don't want people back here. It's a lot easier for them to patrol and do what they need to do. That's what I see. It's becoming a no man's land,” he’s telling Sherman and me.

So, what happened to the business as a whole? Why did it cease to be a golf course?

“They kept hearing they were going to put gates at the entrance. Limited access. When you do that, your clientele is not going to pay. They're not going to pay for anything like that,” he said.

In the end, the government did put a fence up that did not block access. But Bob feels the damage was done.

“Your customers stopped coming to you?” I ask.

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“They stopped. Some were members for years and years,” he said.

Bob went bankrupt. Around the same time, he also lost his father, a WWII vet.

“What are your feelings on government building a wall and exerting eminent domain to take that land?” Sherman asks.

“I know how I feel about that. I feel that our individual rights, our liberties, are more important. There should be something. A give and take on that. My dad was still alive back then. He said, ‘I already sacrificed.’ You don't have to sacrifice, something that has already been sacrificed,” Bob said.

Sherman’s thoughts after meeting with Bob?

“Something out of his control like as heavy as public perception these days about the wall crumbled his dream, slowly but surely,” he said.


La Lomita Chapel was built in the Civil War era. It's still in use today. Current plans would put it on the South side of the wall.

Fr. Roy Snipes, is the priest. He said he occasionally finds illegal immigrant kids sleeping inside. He brings them food and water.

“It has never occurred to anyone that we need to hide behind a wall until now. But the people that say, we need to hide behind a wall are not the people that live here. They're people up north. They say, 'You need to hide behind a wall.' Why don't you hide behind a wall? I don't need to hide behind a wall. Build your own damn wall,” Fr. Roy said.

Just north of the chapel, is a little levee road. That's where the wall would go, Separating La Lomita from the rest Mission, the town that bares its name.

“No one has called and said, we know you're the pastor. We know your mission church is going to be on the other side of the wall. We want to invite you to a meeting. Maybe that's still going to happen. You think they would. You're going to wall our property off from us seems like you'd say something to us. This is not Russia,” he said.

And what are Sherman’s thoughts?

“Something needs to be done. In this case, I don't think it’s a wall that separates a church from a city,” he said.

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It looks like Sherman is coming face-to-face with how national security conflicts with the rhythm life on the border.

But this trip is far from over. In part two, Sherman and I meet up with a large landowner who doesn’t want to use his name, in fear of Mexican drug cartels.

“People talk about the wall doesn't work. They don't know anything about if the wall works or not. But I'll tell you it works,” the Rancher says.

And US Border Patrol takes Verify on a ride along that ends with a $750,000 drug bust.

“What this wall has done is its stopped their movements. Now they have to scale the wall which buys the agents time to actually come down and apprehend them,” says agent Robert Rodriguez.

All that and more on the next Verify.