San Antonio Express-News
November 8, 2008
BROWNSVILLE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is putting off construction of 14 miles of border fence in what Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said Friday is an indication parts of the fence in Texas may not stand under the next administration.
But CBP spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said the decision was made because of engineering difficulties presented by the Rio Grande flood plain and has nothing to do with politics. She said the areas are documented as high-traffic spots for drugs and unauthorized immigration and that the need for a fence wouldn't change.
“There is a law-enforcement need for fence there,” de Rocha said. “Those segments have been delayed, but we still intend to install tactical infrastructure there.”
She said other means of heightened security, such as increased Border Patrol and technology, would be used until the engineering problems have been resolved.
Cuellar, who sits on a subcommittee on the House of Representatives' Committee of Homeland Security, said he was told the decision to defer segments in Starr and Hidalgo counties was made weeks ago, but not shared until Friday.
“They have decided to defer this to the end of the year and let the new administration deal with the issue, is the way I read it,” Cuellar said. “For us, having (President-elect Barack) Obama in, the new homeland security secretary in — we welcome the opportunity to sit down with them and say there's other ways we can provide security.”
The three segments include portions in Rio Grande City, Roma and Los Ebanos totaling 14.36 miles.
While CBP is committed to completing 370 miles of pedestrian fencing by the end of the calendar year, construction in Texas has lagged under fierce opposition.
Government lawyers have been forced to take some private landowners to court in eminent-domain lawsuits and CBP has made high-profile concessions with Hidalgo County and the University of Texas-Brownsville.
To date, CBP has completed about 216 miles of pedestrian fence along the Southwest border.
De Rocha said contracts have been let for all but 20 miles of planned fencing.