'You're giving the river to Mexico!' Why some in Texas say wall won't work

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If President Donald Trump eventually got funding to build a southern border wall, it's become clear Mexico won't be paying for it, at least not anytime soon.

That means your government would be spending your tax dollars on a multi-billion-dollar idea that some residents of one border state believe is a waste of money.

Eagle Pass, Texas, population 50,000, was the first American city sued by the federal government over its refusal to allow a border barrier. That was a decade ago. The city ultimately settled, even though leaders still believe in Texas at least, a wall just won't work.

They say just look at their golf course.

The Eagle Pass Municipal Golf Course was built 90 years ago as part of a military installation now closed.

Mostly retirees take up the challenge of the nine-hole course, the Rio Grande serving as the ultimate water hazard. But for years golfers have had to deal with a different distraction playing through: illegal immigrants splashing across the river to live in the U.S.

“Mothers with babies," recounted course manager Bobby Martinez. "Little kids. They would run, sprint about half the golf course. The rest they'd walk. They looked tired.”

In 2010, Eagle Pass dropped its opposition and allowed the federal government to build a fence. Nearly two miles long. Fourteen feet tall. Price tag: 11 million dollars.

The mayor here still can't stand to look at it.

“It is... a bother," sighed Ramsey English Cantu. "It is... ultimately when we look at that we see it and we think to ourselves, you know, this is such a waste of money.”

So why does the mayor think a wall is a waste, not just here but throughout Texas?

The FOX 5 I-Team drove across the International Bridge to Piedras Negras, the sister city of Eagle Pass. We spotted heavily-armed soldiers patrolling from the back of a pickup truck. The Border Patrol told us drug cartels control all smuggling routes across the Rio Grande. That's for moving drugs and people.

So why not a wall to prevent people from illegally getting to our country?

One reason: it won't solve the entire problem. An estimated two-thirds of the people in the United States illegally got there not by foot but by car or airplane, using a tourist, student or work visa that ultimately expired.

No wall's going to stop that.

Then there's the river itself. In Texas, the entire Mexican border is the Rio Grande, which can sometimes flood. That means a wall in this state must be built inland, leaving chunks of US territory and the entire river on the Mexico side of the barrier.

And sometimes even a nine-hole golf course.

The two-mile Eagle Pass fence cuts off the city golf course and Shelby Park, the city's popular recreational fields. Gates the city maintains stay open unless there's a national emergency. Border Patrol agents watch those gaps in the fence line.

"You're giving it to Mexico saying okay the river is yours," complained golfer David Stoller. He's also a retired U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer who has lived in Eagle Pass since 1993. He doesn't think the fence has made much of a difference.

“Have you seen people on the golf course since the fence went up?"

"Oh yeah."

"Trying to cross?"

"Oh yeah.”

“Have you seen anybody climb the fence?"

"No, they just go around it right there. It ends right there."

Sure enough, it did. The fence ended near the main highway border checkpoint. But others, like golf course manager Martinez, are glad the fence is there, even if the golf course he runs happens to be on the wrong side.

“It actually got better," he insisted. "Really. Because we don't see as much crossings as we used to."

The Border Patrol insists barriers like the one at Eagle Pass – even small sections – still allow them to concentrate agents in areas where there is no wall. But Texans like Stoller believe walls are better for states with borders that don't include a river. California. Arizona. New Mexico.

Their message: don't waste your wall money on the Lone Star State.