Rio Grande Guardian
September 17, 2011
by Steve Taylor
BROWNSVILLE, Sept. 17 - State Sen. Eddie Lucio says if Rio Grande Valley residents keep up the pressure, they will succeed in tearing down the border wall.
“I was born and reared here and I have never seen anything like this monstrosity,” Lucio said, referring to the border wall. “In my lifetime I want to see the border wall come down, just like I saw the Berlin Wall come down. Even if I am 85 or 90 years old, I want to be there when the wall comes down.”
Lucio said he also wants to see, in his lifetime, the appropriate level of compensation paid to those whose homes and land have been disfigured by the border wall. “We give big corporations on Wall Street billions of dollars of tax relief. Why can’t we give the little people, people I consider great Americans and great Texans, some relief? We should not turn our backs on those in need,” he said.
Lucio, D-Brownsville, made his comments in an exclusive interview with the Guardian immediately following a town hall meeting he held to discuss to the impact the border wall has had on landowners who live between the wall and the Rio Grande.
Lucio said all the evidence suggests the border wall has not been an effective method in deterring undocumented immigration. He said it was only erected “to satisfy the appetite of immigrant-bashing politicians in other parts of America.”
A much better method of deterring undocumented immigration, Lucio said, would be to set up a four-state immigrant employment zone where Mexican residents could come in and work under a guest worker program. He said he is confident that if such a program were in operation, Mexican nationals would return to their homeland once their work is done.
“If we want to do something about illegal immigration we should create an immigrant employment zone and have guest workers come in. We would know who they are and where they live. At the moment people get in illegally and they spread out. They are in hiding,” Lucio said.
“I want to see the federal government pass legislation to allow the four Border States – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California - to address this issue at the state level. We know better than the federal government how to set up this program. We need bricklayers, we need roofers; we need dishwashers, we need agricultural workers. Let us as Border States hire workers from Mexico to do the jobs our people are unwilling to do.”
Lucio said if the federal government allowed the Border States to create an immigrant employment zone for Mexican workers, the four states would be a lot cleaner. “These people are workers. They have an incredible work ethic. They would keep our state clean. All they want to do is make a little bit of money to maintain their families. They want to eat. They want to live. Who can blame them? It is all about if we are going to be humanitarians or not,” he said.
Lucio said the U.S. should also be doing more to help Mexico.
“The way you curb illegal immigration from Mexico is to create an economy there that is robust. The Mexican government needs to establish a national minimum wage. You get a $5 dollar minimum wage and these workers will not be coming here. They will stay in Mexico. Lift their economy and you keep these people in their homeland,” he said.
Lucio concluded his interview with the Guardian by casting doubt on the usefulness of a congressional hearing being staged at the University of Texas at Brownsville on Monday by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble. The hearing is slated to focus on border violence.
“My staff has been told only invited guests will be allowed to speak at this hearing and that the people of my community, the people who attended this town hall meeting, will not be allowed to testify. That is un-American,” Lucio said.
“Why bother to hold a hearing if you are not going to hear from the public? Why waste taxpayers’ money? Send us the money for public education or healthcare. Don’t spend all this money on a joyride. As far as I am concerned these members of Congress could have stayed back home and done a teleconference. I am extremely disappointed our residents will not get to speak.”
Poe is a big backer of the border wall. Last March he co-authored the Unlawful Border Entry Prevention Act, which would require construction of an additional 350 miles of border wall.
Despite not being allowed to testify at Poe’s hearing, Lucio said he will try to get all the comments made by those at his town hall meeting entered into the congressional record. “I am going to see if they make these comments part of the record or chuck them away,” Lucio said. He said he would also be sending the comments of those who attended the town hall meeting to President Obama.
Lucio’s town hall meeting was held at the Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course, adjacent to the Rio Grande.
Among those who spoke at the event were state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, landowner Michelle Taylor Moncivaiz, whose home lies between the border wall and the Rio Grande, Equal Voice for America’s Families leader Mike Seifert, La Unión del Pueblo Entero Director Juanita Valdez Cox, Sierra Club Borderlands Team Co-Chair and No Border Wall Coalition Co-Founder Scott Nicol, UT-Brownsville professors Jeff Wilson and Jude Benavides, Hidalgo County Democratic Party activist Aaron Peña III, Texas Rangers Liaison Art Barrera, and Rick Perez, a member of the special investigations unit set up by Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio. The only person at the hearing to speak in favor of the border wall was Brownsville resident Dagberto Barrera.