Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TBC: Border wall and the Obama promise

Rio Grande Guardian
April 11, 2009

McALLEN, April 11 - In a 3,000-plus word memorandum sent to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Texas Border Coalition discusses in-depth the border wall issue.

The memo was written for TBC by its immigration committee Chair Monica Weisberg Stewart. She delivered the memo to Napolitano in Laredo on April 3.

Here is the section of the memo dealing with the border wall:

“During President Obama’s campaign, he stated that he would "reverse that policy" of building a wall, “that the key is to consult with local communities,” adding that the Bush Administration did not do such a good job of consulting. He said, “Having the border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that's going to be the better approach.” In Berlin, he noted, "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

“We are therefore surprised that the Obama Administration has proceeded with new construction of fencing in Cameron and Hidalgo Counties without consulting with local communities and that the person responsible for consultation in the Bush Administration (who didn’t do such a good job, according to President Obama) is still in charge in the Obama Administration.

“Like President Obama, the Texas Border Coalition supports smart and effective measures that will achieve true border security. We have suggested fencing alternatives in Texas, such as the Vega Project in Laredo, the Eagle Pass Park project, the Brownsville Weir and Reservoir project, and the clearing of the banks of the Rio Grande – north and south – of vegetation such as Carrizo cane and salt cedar that provide hiding places for illegal border-crossers and put our Border Patrol agents at risk.

“We support physical barriers in areas where they make sense and are agreed to by elected county and municipal officials, such as in Del Rio and Hidalgo County. We support smarter, more effective solutions where fences won’t work including radar, cameras, sensors and more effective deployment of Border Patrol agents.

“In most places, the border fence won’t work, a fact that former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff admits to, acknowledging that illegal crossers will go around, over, through and under it. Border Patrol officials liken it more to a “speed bump” since it is only intended to slow down the immigrants by three to four minutes. The fence is more gap than barrier: the fence covers less than 370 of the 1,969 miles of U.S.-Mexican border, less than 1 mile in 5.

“Arizona landowner Bill Odle has begun collecting ladders used by crossers near his home. His neighbor Glenn Spencer says people on the Mexican side can get on the roof of a pickup truck, climb a few feet over the fence, drop down onto the posts on the U.S. side and then jump down to the ground. Border crossers in New Mexico abandon plasma torches after they cut through the fence. Border Patrol has discovered more than 30 tunnels under the fence. Around, over, through and under: it won’t work.

“We have doubts about the Border Patrol’s claim that the fence is the only way to achieve persistent impedance. When any alternative form of impedance was proposed to the CBP or Corps of Engineers during the now moot environmental assessment period, officials made clear theirs was the only alternative that was going to be considered. This is despite greater consistent impedance provided by alternatives such as the Brownsville Weir.

“At a time when our national government is projected to spend nearly $2 trillion more than it has in revenue in the current fiscal year, there is no possible excuse for wasting $50 billion on a program that we know -- and even its strongest advocates admit -- will fail to accomplish its mission and that there are more effective, less costly alternatives that the prior Administration refused to even consider.

“In Texas, the fence is being built more than a mile from the border, trapping people – workers, families, farmers, ranchers, retirees – and wildlife in a “dead zone” that is north of the Rio Grande, but south of the fence. That means that when fires, floods, medical crises or crime require evacuation, emergency or law enforcement, emergency personnel won’t be able to rescue people or property. It also means that when drug cartels decide it is in their interest to occupy dead zone property, local law enforcement will be prevented from defending their territory.

“Wildlife won’t be able to access the life-giving resources of the Rio Grande. People and wildlife – in many cases, endangered species – will die. Additionally, wildlife sanctuaries that have been a popular attraction for local schools will no longer be a safe place to visit, as school districts are refusing to travel south of the fence for liability purposes. Being the only southern border state that is separated from Mexico by a river, the Texas border requires a unique solution because one-size-does-not-fit-all.

“It is an ineffective solution that isolates only one part of the problem and that will likely make the other parts of the security whole – such as the lack of resources to make security through Ports of Entry appropriately effective – worse.

“This project will endanger public safety, reduce income and economic activity, destroy cultural and community resources, erode water resources, endanger wildlife and lead to additional negative consequences that we are not yet able to forecast.”


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