Rio Grande Guardian
December 10, 2008
BROWNSVILLE, December 10 - Last week El Paso County leaders wrote to President-elect Barack Obama asking him to stop construction of the border wall and now Cameron County leaders have followed suit.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Obama, Cameron County Commissioners Court said that at a time when the U.S. faces a severe financial crisis it was “irresponsible” to spend “billions of dollars on a wall that will not only scar our environmental landscape but also damage our relationship with communities and countries across the Americas.”
The commissioners, led by County Judge Carlos Cascos, said in the letter that the $6.3 billion the federal government plans to spend on the border wall “would be better spent on developing the infrastructure of the border region.”
The letter from the commissioners came on the same day Obama spoke about the border wall issue, in an interview with reporters from the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
Asked if he supported the build-out of the fence and its continued construction, Obama told the reporters that he plans to talk with Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, his pick for Homeland Security secretary. “I want to discuss with her what our best options are, what our best strategy is, do an evaluation about what's working, what isn't working. And then we'll make a determination from there,” Obama said.
The Cameron County letter also came on the same day that the County of El Paso filed an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court on the federal lawsuit that challenges Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff’s statutory authority to issue a waiver of more than 30 federal laws, as well as any state and local laws related to such federal laws, to accelerate the construction of a border fence in El Paso County.
El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez is a board member of the Texas Border Coalition, a group comprising border mayors and county judges that has led the fight against the border wall plan.
Last week, El Paso leaders wrote to Obama's transition team urging that the border wall project be stopped. Among those participating were state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, El Paso County Attorney José Rodriguez, who is also a board member of the Texas Border Coalition, and El Paso City Rep. Steve Ortega.
Here is the Cameron County letter to Obama in full:
Dear President-Elect Obama,
Congratulations on your historic election. We wish you the best and pledge to work with you and your administration over the course of the next four years.
As you well know from your visits during the election all along the U.S.-Mexico border our local economies thrive due to our close relationship with Mexico. In fact, in 2007 alone, the U.S.-Mexico export and import trade totaled $347.3 billion. Texas alone trades more with Mexico than all the European Union combined. At a time when our country faces a severe financial crisis, we believe it is irresponsible to spend billions of dollars on a wall that will not only scar our environmental landscape but also damage our relationship with communities and countries across the Americas. The $6.3 billion that the federal government plans to spend on the border wall would be better spent on developing the infrastructure of the border region.
The recent appointment of Governor Janet Napolitano clearly signifies the importance of immigration reform to your administration. We sincerely hope that our plan will not include the main component of immigration reform to your administration. We sincerely hope that our plan will not include the main component of immigration reform pursued by the Bush administration and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff--the border wall.
Border walls are currently under construction in all four southern border states, and hundreds more miles of walls called for by the Secure Border Fence Act are in the planning stages. In April 2008, for the fifth time, Secretary Chertoff used the power granted to him by the Real ID Act to waive laws along the border so that walls and roads could be built without regard to public health and safety or environmental protection.
In Texas, condemnation proceedings have been initiated against border municipalities and landowners, in spite of the fact that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 obliges homeland security officials to consult with the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, states, local governments, Native American Nations and property owners in communities affected by the wall.
For our country to prosper, we must lead the way in the safe, fast and secure movement of people and products in a post-9/11 world. To achieve success our borders and ports-of-entry need adequate staffing, state-of-the-art technology, modern infrastructure and effective enforcement.
We respectfully ask that you make the cancellation of the border wall on the Southern border a top priority of your Administration. Let us build bridges of friendship, safety and prosperity- not walls of hatred and division. We have the confidence that the CHANGE you have brought will help you lead this great country to a nation of hope and great optimism for our future generations.
Thanks for your leadership on this issue.
Cameron County Judge Carlos CascosCameron County Commissioners Sophia Benavides, John Wood, David A. Garza and Edna Tamayo