Friday, November 14, 2008

Lawmakers lobbied on border fence

El Paso Times
November 14, 2008

EL PASO - The Texas Legislature should file legal briefs backing the lawsuits that several El Paso governmental and environmental entities filed in federal court declaring the border fence unconstitutional, County Attorney José Rodríguez told members of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus on Thursday.

Rodríguez spent the morning in Austin talking to the caucus about the negative consequences the fence - which is now being built along the U.S.-Mexico border - would have locally.

"I asked them to pass a resolution opposing further erection of the fence ... to show support for communities like El Paso," he said. "We think that the state of Texas has been entirely too quiet. As a state we should be on the forefront of this issue."

Early last summer, the city and county of El Paso joined the Texas Border Coalition's lawsuit against the fence.

Since then, both entities joined other environmental groups in a separate lawsuit challenging the authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's to access the land near the Rio Grande to build the fence. They claimed the department inappropriately ignored more than 30 laws that would have prevented the construction now under way.

The second lawsuit was dismissed in a federal court in El Paso, and the case is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I would ask that when El Paso files its appeal in federal court that the Legislature also obtain a brief in our support," Rodríguez said.

Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito and the chairman of the caucus, said he was impressed by Rodríguez's testimony.

"He provided great impact and shed some light on things the caucus was not fully aware of," he said. "This is valuable testimony that we'll put into the record and hopefully use to make things happen."

Lucio said he wanted to follow some of the recommendations that Rodríguez made on Thursday.
"There are advocacy groups asking that the Legislature take a more active role on this issue," Lucio said. "I want to pass a resolution, yes, but I also want to lobby the leadership in Texas to create work groups to do research and create suggestions for alternatives for this problem."

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