Spared under Trump, historic Jackson Cemetery now sits behind newly constructed border wall

2 months 1 week 1 day ago Monday, November 28 2022 Nov 28, 2022 November 28, 2022 5:58 PM November 28, 2022 in News - Immigration / Borderwall

Spared under Trump, the historic Jackson Cemetery is now isolated behind the border wall built by a new administration.

At its closest, the permanent barrier sits about 100 feet from headstones dating back to the 19th and 20th century.

Construction continues today in the vicinity of the historic church and cemetery, originating from the Jackson Ranch, founded in 1857, which is the final resting place for multiple Valley families.

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Border wall sections were added in the vicinity of the cemetery during the Trump administration. But construction closest to the cemetery was suspended after an outcry from a mix of stakeholders including property owners, environmental advocates and those concerned about historic preservation.

Lawmakers went as far as to formally limit the construction boundaries in border wall appropriations. In 2019, Congressman Henry Cuellar added language to the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill, excluding several Valley wildlife refuges as well as cemeteries from border wall construction.

But as of this summer, construction immediately next to the cemetery has been completed. It's a sign the current administration has a different set of priorities.

"We were led to believe that once a new administration came in, that everything was going to stop," said Ramiro Ramirez, a descendant of the founding family. "It did for several months, we thought we were okay."

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The Biden administration has notably continued border wall construction in some areas. But the administration says construction is limited to safety and flood control, especially at sites where the border wall was being constructed in the IBWC flood levee.

Ramirez and some fellow descendants feel boxed in. They worry about gates being built at previously open entrances.

"Right now, they're building some gates there and they have failed to tell us exactly how we're going to have access to the church," Ramirez said. 

They also documented impacts to the foundation of the church and headstones, with the proximity of the construction.

"The vibration caused the church to move," Ramirez said.

He says they had enough evidence to win a settlement against the builder.

"They compensated some, nothing significant," Ramirez said. "In principle, that makes us feel better, but the damage was still done."

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Channel 5 News reached out to Customs and Border Protection to understand the purpose of the new construction, and how administration priorities have changed. The agency did not comment.

Wall construction started during the Trump administration, but until now, the section closest to the cemetery wasn't filled.

Ramirez buried his wife in the cemetery in April.

"She wanted to be buried there," Ramirez said. "She wanted to be buried there with the rest of the family. She had a great love for that place. It was very meaningful to all of us and there's a monument that's going to be built for her, and it's going to say, 'In Memory of Melinda Walker Ramirez, and everyone that went before her.'"

The future is uncertain.

"This is a lot of history that means a lot of things to us," Ramirez said.

The family legacy still stands.

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