June 1, 2009
by Emma Perez-Trevino
The City Commission today is poised to approve an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, allowing the construction of the border fence between Brownsville and Matamoros.
The proposal also contains provisions that the city's land would revert to the city upon construction of replacement barriers and a new levee.
But the vote is not expected to be unanimous as Mayor Pat M. Ahumada Jr. continues to voice opposition to the "shameful" fence.
Ahumada instead proposes the Brownsville-Matamoros dam project, which he calls a virtual fence, as an alternative.
Ahumada has scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference for today to discuss the proposal with DHS.
The commission will consider the agreement at its regular meeting a few hours later, starting at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1001 E. Elizabeth St.
The proposed agreement comes on the heels of DHS' action in May in federal court to take possession of 15.919 acres of city land while negotiations with the city were ongoing.
The proposed temporary border fence would be built on the East Loop levee and between the Gateway International Bridge and the B&M International Bridge.
In a statement issued Friday, City Manager Charlie Cabler said that he, members of his staff and DHS had reached an agreement, subject to the commission's approval.
Cabler said that reversion of the properties to the city would allow the city to complete the East Loop, which will carry heavy truck traffic from the international bridges to the Port of Brownsville. He said the land also is vital to the contemplated development of the historic downtown area.
Under the proposal, the city would be responsible for designing and constructing the replacement levee and barriers. The temporary fencing would be removed by DHS if funding were available.
Ahumada has urged opponents to the fence to again petition the commission not to enter into any agreement with DHS.
Prior to the regular meeting, the commission will hold a workshop at 5:15 p.m. and an executive session at 5:30 p.m.