Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama wants to evaluate border wall issue with Napolitano

Rio Grande Guardian
December 10, 2008

GRANJENO, December 10 - President-elect Barack Obama has given the clearest indication yet that he wants to look again at the border wall issue.

In his first newspaper interview since becoming president-elect, Obama spoke with reporters Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons, of the Los Angeles Times' Washington bureau, and reporter John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune.

Here are the questions and answers as they relate to border security and immigration:

Question: During the campaign you were critical of the border fence, but I think you voted for it?
Answer: I voted for the fence, but argued at the time and continued to argue that it was inadequate and a fence alone, without a broader, comprehensive immigration reform, was not going to work. And I continue to believe that we have to have much stronger border security, crack down on employers that are hiring undocumented workers, but provide a pathway to citizenship for those who have been here and, you know, have put roots down here, and often times have American children. We need to get them out of the shadows and put them on some path to legalization.

Question: Will you support the build-out of the fence and its continued construction?

Answer: You know, one of the things I want to do -- and I'm very pleased with [Arizona Gov.] Janet Napolitano as the next head of the Department of Homeland Security, because nobody has more experience on these border issues than she does -- 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 was also asked about NAFTA:

Question: On NAFTA, we've heard that you might support maybe a study and then a report, instead of a wholesale reworking of the agreement right away?

Answer: Well look, my economic team is reviewing these issues. You know, I've consistently said on trade issues that I want environmental and labor provisions that are enforceable in those trade agreements. But I also have said that I believe in free trade and don't think that we can draw a moat around the American economy. I think that would be a mistake.

Obama also spoke about his involvement, or lack of, with arrested Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the nation’s economic woes. Click here to read the interview.

Reynaldo Anzaldua, a No Border Wall coalition member who has been active in the fight against the border wall in Granjeno, told the Guardian he was “encouraged” by Obama’s comments.
“I am encouraged because it looks as though President-elect Obama is going to look at the border wall issue again. I am also encouraged by Gov. Napolitano’s appointment as Homeland Security secretary. What did she say? ‘You show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border’,” Anzaldua said, speaking in his personal capacity.

Anzaldua said he visited the border wall south of Tucson, Arizona, last week. “It is clear the border wall is not going work there. It is no real barrier. It is by no means effective,” Anzaldua said.

Anzaldua added: “I think those of us opposed to the border wall are going to see how we can pressure the politicians to not only stop construction of the border wall but to even tear down the existing wall. We are going to be working on tearing down this wall.”

Adrienne Evans, co-founder of No Wall–Big Bend coalition, said she too was hopeful that Obama would stop border wall construction. She pointed out that most border counties voted heavily for Obama and believes most border residents are opposed to the border wall.

“I drove a van proudly draped in large Barack Obama campaign signs throughout Texas in the last weeks before the election, my children and I braving the occasional hostilities directed at us. Along with countless Texans, I did the 'Obama dance' and happily cried my heart out when Obama won the presidency,” Evans told the Guardian.

“And now, we're holding our collective breath to see what he and Homeland Security Secretary-nominee Napolitano will do about the ugly, useless, devastating border wall, el muro de odio (the wall of hate), in our beautiful home state of Texas, on the 100-million-year-old river we share with Mexico, the Rio Grande.”

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.

“We ask you to stop building muros de odio on our southern border—let us stop building these ill-conceived walls founded in current notions of racism. As the next President of the United States, we hope your administration will lead the U.S. to once again be the beacon of hope to the world,” the letter stated.

“Let us make the case for safer, faster ports to move people and products in a 21st Century world. And most of all, let us work together, strengthened by the proud legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to reach out to our neighbors, family and friends in all the Americas to build lasting bridges of friendship, safety and prosperity—not walls of hatred and division.”

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