El Paso Times
September 10, 2008
AUSTIN - Congress should reject the Bush administration's request for another $400 million to build fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border, a coalition of Texas border officials and business leaders said Wednesday.
"It would be a taxpayer travesty for Congress to reward DHS for its inability to control spending," Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, wrote in a letter to U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
Department of Homeland Security officials told Congress on Wednesday that the 670-mile fence might not be completed this year and that it was $400 million over budget because of increased fuel and steel costs and limited labor availability.
The Bush administration had hoped to finish the fence this year, and about 340 miles are built so far. Congress so far has approved some $2.6 billion for fence construction.
Many Texas border communities have opposed the fence, filing lawsuits to prevent the barrier from being built in environmentally sensitive areas, on private property and in areas where it could disrupt farming.
El Paso County Commissioner Veronica Escobar said taxpayer money would be more wisely used to help Americans struggling in the sagging economy.
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, said the request for more money proves the project will continue to waste taxpayer money. He called the fence a "failed approach" to border security.
"We should be investing in more boots on the ground and in technologies that will help secure our borders and our ports of entry," Reyes said.
El Paso's business community is not opposed to fencing, per se, said Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce President Richard Dayoub. Their position is that border security should be a part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul immigration in the U.S.
Fencing off the borders, Dayoub said, is neither economically nor logistically feasible.
"It needs to simply to be used as a tool," he said.