Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Border Patrol considers putting razor wire on Nogales fence

Nogales International
July 19, 2013
by Kurt Prendergrast

Concertina wire could be installed on the border fence to the east and west of downtown Nogales, much to the chagrin of the city council.

The wire, made of razor-sharp blades attached to coiled metal strands, was installed on the fence separating San Diego and Tijuana five years ago and the Border Patrol is considering a similar action in Nogales.


The issue was brought up at Wednesday’s regular council meeting by Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino in response to a conversation he had with Leslie Lawson, patrol agent in charge of Border Patrol’s Nogales Station, who let him know about the proposed plan to install razor wire on the fence near Short Street on the east side of Nogales and near Hereford Drive on the west side.
The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector “is considering a proposed deployment of concertina wire in the Nogales area,” spokesman Brent Cagen wrote in an email response to questions from the NI. The proposal is still under review, he wrote, adding “specifics concerning this proposal are unavailable at this time.”
During his meeting with Lawson, Garino said, she told him that rather than place the wire on top of the fence, the wire would be installed about 10 feet above the ground on the U.S. side of the fence.
Lawson told Garino that the wire would act as a deterrent to prevent people from jumping the fence, he said.
“There’s been a lot of injuries – broken ankles, hips, and different injuries – from people trying to jump,” he said, noting that the Border Patrol’s concern about injuries was “understandable.”
However, Garino said, he has “concerns” about the dangers of installing razor wire on the fence.
“If somebody at night was to jump the fence, not knowing that on the other side of the fence, 10-feet high, waiting for him is the razor wire. I don’t know what conditions we would find that person there,” he said. “Is it better for that person to break an ankle or is it better for that person to be tangled in that wire?”
Garino found support for his concerns among the other council members.
“It kind of gives me an image of Hitler coming back,” said Councilman John Doyle. “I think that it’s a little too strong. If somebody gets tangled up there, their eyes go or their legs get cut.”
Councilman Cesar Parada proposed that the council pass a resolution in opposition to the plan, which it could send to members of Congress. City Manager Shane Dille proposed a news conference to protest the plan.
After the discussion, Garino directed staff to draw up a resolution along the lines suggested by Parada.
On the razor’s edge
In 2010, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords requested funding from the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security for a border barrier in Nogales that would “incorporate double-wall fencing, concertina wire... and vehicle ditches.”
That request was pulled back after the NI called attention to the plan, and when the new fence was constructed in 2011, it was a single-layer, bollard-style fence without concertina wire.
However, razor wire was installed on the border fence that separates San Diego and Tijuana five years ago, according to a May 17, 2008 report in the Los Angeles. Times. In late April, news outlets reported that the San Diego Fire Department had to extricate a man who found himself entangled in the wire while trying to illegally cross the border.
The cost to the Nogales Fire Department for extricating illegal border-crossers entangled in the wire was a point of concern for the council on Wednesday.
Parada asked staff whether the city could hold the Border Patrol responsible for “picking up the tab” on healthcare costs for people caught in the wire.
City Attorney Jose Machado said that department heads could instruct their personnel to take care of the injured person without taking the person into custody, which would make the city responsible for the costs. He noted that the federal government is responsible for injuries sustained within 60 feet of the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Democrats warn of more border deaths under Senate immigration bill

The Hill
July 24, 2013
by Mike Lillis

Border-state Democrats are warning this week that the Senate's immigration reform bill would increase the number of migrant deaths.

Behind the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), the lawmakers said the Senate's border-security provisions – sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Hoeven (N.D.) – would "militarize" the border at the expense of migrant lives.

"Since 9/11 we've seen increasing deaths of migrants despite decreasing crossing attempts," Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) told reporters Wednesday outside the Capitol. "So I think it's logical to assume that if we continue to wall up, militarize and fortify the border, we're going to push those fewer and fewer migrants who choose to cross into more treacherous territory, thereby ensuring greater death and suffering.

"We will definitely see more death and suffering if we pass immigration reform with something like Corker-Hoeven," he added.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), delivered a similar message, warning that an over-emphasis on security would both increase migrant deaths and slow the flow of trade between Mexico and the United States.

Yet another border-state Democrat, Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), churned headlines earlier in the month when he quit the CHC to protest the Senate's border-fence provisions.

The growing opposition to the Corker-Hoeven provision comes even as Democratic leaders – from President Obama on down – are encouraging House Republicans to take up the Senate-passed bill for the sake of reforming the nation's broken immigration system this year. The suggestion has been that House Democrats would vote to support that package en masse, but the criticism from Hispanic leaders – who have been the loudest advocates for reform – threatens to undermine that message.

It might not matter. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has refused to bring the Senate package to the floor, arguing that a piecemeal approach is more thoughtful.

Approved last month in an effort to rally more conservatives behind comprehensive reform, the Corker-Hoeven provision would provide an additional $40 billion over the next decade to bolster border enforcement. Central to that effort, the measure would fund an additional 18,000 Border Patrol agents and 700 miles of physical border fence.

The amendment passed easily, 69-29, with 15 Republicans backing the measure. It set the stage for final approval of the Senate package, which passed by a similarly lopsided 68-32 vote.

The Democrats say they're more attuned to a House GOP proposal, sponsored by Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), that calls for a comprehensive border strategy to be in place before more funding is allocated.

O'Rourke called the McCaul bill "a much more humane, rational and fiscally responsible approach."

"That we're even considering building a wall of additional 700 miles and doubling the border patrol is ridiculous," he said. "This is one area, where I think the House is going to get this one right."

House Republicans have also panned the Senate's border-fence provisions – though for decidedly different reasons.

Many, like Rep. Candice Miller, don't want to spend so much without guarantees the resources are working. The Michigan Republican, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee's subpanel on border security, said at a hearing this week that the Corker-Hoeven provision represents "a continuation of previous efforts to secure the border – with a heavy emphasis on spending resources, with limited accountability or ability to measure outcomes of those applied resources."

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), a member of the bipartisan group negotiating a comprehensive reform package in the House, is also wary of the heavy emphasis on the border fence. He warned earlier this month that anyone hoping to seal the Southern border entirely is dreaming.

“I've been down there all my life, and I'm telling you, you can have a 40-foot wall and put machine guns on it, and you can't secure the Southern border," he said. "There's too much wild country."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Border Fence: Horrible Deal At Cost Up To $40,000 Per Illegal Immigrant Apprehended

Forbes July 18, 2013 by Richard Finger There are few topics today that arouse more passionate debate than the current immigration reform bill which though recently passed by overwhelming majority (68-32) in the senate most probably will, according to the political cognoscenti, languish in our fractious House of Representatives. Not only is this not a new issue, it has been tackled through various iterations over the past three quarters of a century. The Bracero Program from 1942-1964 was designed to alleviate wartime labor shortages in the agricultural sector. Workers were often taken advantage of through very poor wages and abysmal living conditions while unions offered strenuous objections over American workers being displaced. The H-2 visa program guarantees guest workers a minimum wage and other protections and at the end of the contract period that person returns to his or her country of origin. In the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986” sitting President Ronald Reagan famously offered immediate blanket amnesty to an estimated 2.8 million illegal immigrants and a simple five year path to citizenship. (I will come back to this). In 2004, President George W. Bush’s proposal to mend our nation’s immigration cleavage through “Fair and Secure Immigration Reform” foundered. Fast forward to 2013 where President Obama faces the tough challenge of placating intractable political tribes, each huddled inwardly in coveys and, many of whom, in my opinion, are much more concerned about survival of midterm elections than really taking the time to understand the nuance of this very important issue. How many of our politicians have actually gone to Texas and California and spent time on the border? Republicans have pre-conditions of a “secure border”. What does that mean exactly? Democrats presumably see 11 million potential voters which is an equally simplistic view. Almost always, when dealing with a far reaching “hot button issue” such as immigration, the reality is far more complex and subtle than a simple black or white position postulated in many of the media reports. To write this article I talked with two people who have informed opinions on this issue that will impact our great nation for generations to come. I interviewed Mr. Gary Jacobs, a successful Laredo Texas businessman and from there I secured what turned into a very long conversation with Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas’s 28th district which encompasses a significant swath of the Texas-Mexico border from Laredo and 150 miles south to McAllen. Congressman Cuellar is one of but a handful of “blue dog” Democrats that has often been willing to risk his party’s wrath to step across the aisle and engage in constructive dialogue with Republicans. Mr. Jacobs, a lifelong Texas resident, has called Laredo home since the mid 1960’s. He was Chairman and CEO of Laredo National Bank from 1976 to 2005 when it was acquired for $850 million by Spain based BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria). As an international banker promoting commerce with one of our country’s three most important trading partners Mr. Jacobs has spent a lifetime understanding the social, cultural, political issues of Mexico and promoting economic ties and bilateral trade between the two countries. This will be a three part article of which part one will discuss the logistics, economic impacts, and practical ramifications of building a 700 mile border fence. Subsequent material will look at the reality of hiring an extra 20,000 border patrol agents. And then these experts will give their views on what it means to effectively grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants. Some discussion of Homeland Security current policy will be debated and whether or not there exist more efficient ways to deal with illegal immigration, a problem that sooner or later must be faced, and our answer which will effect this nation for generations to come. Richard: Mr. Jacobs and Congressman Cuellar, thanks for taking the time to discuss what has become a very polarizing issue in America today. Both of you spent half a century or more living in Laredo….. can you share some insights into what is happening in Washington regarding the immigration bill? Jacobs: What the republicans are proposing is not only outlandishly expensive, from my perspective it is absolutely impossible to completely secure our border in a way envisioned by Republicans. Richard: You are referring to the proposed extra 700 miles of proposed fencing and the extra 20,000 more border patrol agents. Jacobs: I think the new plan calls for a double-layer fence which translates to two parallel barriers on either side of a corridor manned by Border Patrol. First, it doesn’t matter how many fences you build, how high, how thick, if people want to get in they will find a way. Second, and I can only speak to the area from El Paso to Brownsville….that is impossible to totally seal off. The physical challenges there are insurmountable. Look on a border map and explain to me how you would propose to interdict on Lake Amistad, or Falcon Lake……or Big Bend National Park which people don’t realize is over 1,250 square miles, bigger than Rhode Island and has mountains that have several thousand feet of vertical height. Richard: You mention that illegals will find some way to circumvent the fences. Jacobs: Yes. The ingenuity of smugglers is always steps ahead of law enforcement. Boatloads of immigrants will be bussed on boats into the Gulf of Mexico and dropped off on Padre Island. Or watch the migration flow north to the Canadian border where there are no fences and security is extremely lax compared to Texas….and there is 3,000 miles of it. Some of the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada, if you recall. Richard: You referred in your opening statement to the cost of the fence. Jacobs: It is impossible to pin down exactly, but there are some estimates. In a 2007 study the non-partisan Congressional Research Office pegged the bill to construct and maintain (for 25 years) a 700 mile fence to be $49 billion. This is the same type of double fences contemplated in today’s bill. That was six years ago…..materials and labor prices have increased and then there is my “law of government”……..things always take longer and cost more, usually much more, than they tell us. So what’s the cost today….you pick a number. And that’s just the beginning. We haven’t tallied the costs for all the new ancillary surveillance paraphernalia; unmanned aerial drones, helicopters, radars, night vision goggles, high tech cameras, airboats, blimps, other high speed power boats, who knows what else…..and then factor all the costs of maintenance on this high tech equipment…..over time it’s well into the billions. Cuellar: Gary, your points are well taken. When I was on Homeland Security Committee I put forth some simple questions. How much does one mile of fence cost versus one mile of technology (high frequency sensors, etc.) A mile of technology costs $1 million while the fence is many many multiples of that. I then wanted to know if statistics are available that could tell whether technology or fences were more effective at securing our borders. The answer was it was hard to have an idea. A fence, even the double fence contemplated gives law enforcement maybe a minute or less to react and apprehend. Richard: Besides the enormous expense, why else don’t you favor a fence? Cuellar: Simply stated, a fence is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem. Gary is right, if the fence is an impediment undocumented aliens will find another way. According to Homeland Security, 40 percent of all undocumented aliens came here legally on some type of work or student visa. They just never went back home. Of the other 60 percent many were brought in by smuggling operations. It is troubling that some politicians pontificate on sealing a border when they live 1,200 miles away and have not spent an adequate amount of time to visit and understand the terrain or the local dynamics. Jacobs: A giant issue that nobody brings up are the environmental impacts of a fence right up against the Rio Grande. The river provides the water for the roughly 7 plus million people that live on either side of the border from El Paso to Brownsville. The Rio Grande has hundreds and hundreds of significant tributaries that flow into it. Water always seeks its lowest point. Any solid contiguous fence, especially the double type fence contemplated, would impede water flow and effectively create what amounts to water being dammed up. Not only would the water back up, all the debris like rotten wood and tree branches will leave areas looking like hundreds of beaver dams. If our government is planning on leaving spaces where these waterways exist to let water flow naturally, then people could get through too… if that’s true, what’s the point of a fence? Further evidence of the impracticality of this project is there seems to be no consideration of the massive flooding that occurs in the (Rio Grande) valley. It doesn’t rain often, but when it does come…….we often have bursts of 5 to 10 inches or more…..and the river gets high and fierce and escapes its banks. Unless the geniuses in Washington plan on digging concrete footings five, eight feet into the ground next to the riverbank, these fences will get washed away with the first big flood. The river also rages on the occasions water is released from (lake) Amistad. Add billions to whatever repair bill the senators had in mind. I almost forgot a major point. With all the resulting mini dam’s that will form, normal drainage in the main source (the Rio Grande) would change…the watershed would be altered….as a lot of water gets stuck on the U.S. side (of the border). The U.S. and Mexico share rights to the river’s water per the 1944 US-Mexico Water Treaty. It governs both the Rio Grande and the Colorado (river) and delineates riparian rights and specific acre feet water allocations. Under our “fence plan” the Mexican side of the border would certainly be shortchanged……..a huge potential problem. If this thing has to be (built), then build it along the highways a thousand or two thousand feet inland. There are checkpoints there already, and a barrier there would, in my opinion, be much easier to enforce and far cheaper to construct. That said, I want to be on record that I find all fences socially and politically offensive……they hark of East and West Berlin. Richard: That’s pretty powerful. What other negatives for the fence? Cuellar: I recently visited Mexico a week or so ago, and had a chance to visit my counterpart senators and congressmen. I have to tell you they are mystified by our obsession to create this giant barrier between our countries. Some are having some hard feelings about a neighbor who is supposed to be a friend. Consider this; $1.2 billion of goods cross the Texas border from Mexico daily. 44.91 percent of all U.S. Mexico trade comes through my district at Laredo. This trade is directly tied to six million U.S. jobs. There are those in Mexico who view this fence as an extremely hostile act. I currently sit on State,Foreign Operations, a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Our mandate is to dispense aid to countries around the world. According to Congressional Research Service, in fiscal year 2012, we gave over $1.5 billion annually to Egypt in total funding and over $2.5 billion to Pakistan. In the same year, we provided neighbor Mexico just $281 million. Bottom line is that Mexico is a friend and a huge net positive for America. Gary: Let’s have a look at some numbers and see what value we will be getting for our money. Right now there are an estimated 11 million illegals in America today….which is down from over 12million in 2007. Between March 2007 and March 2009 the average numbers of illegals crossing our borders was 150,000 down from peaks of 500,000 annually earlier in the decade. It should be quite obvious that the flow of illegals corresponds with the health of the American economy. As we bottomed and the construction industry dried up in 08 and 09 immigration tailed off proportionately. Now that our economy is on somewhat better footing, illegal crossings are up marginally, though nothing like earlier levels. The net flow for the last couple of years though has been flat… many people are returning as those that are arriving. Most of these facts came from the Pugh Hispanic Center. Let’s now assume that over 25 years we spend $75 to $100 billion on the fence, the equipment, maintenance, etc. The next step is that we will guess that without the new fence 200,000 illegals will arrive annually. After this new fence is built many estimates say the number of illegals entering the US would fall by half, to 100,000. So over 25 years the fence prevented 2.5 million people from coming to America illegally. At $100 billion in cost that comes out to $40,000 per illegal… $75 billion the number is $30,000. Richard: Put that way it’s not a lot of bang for your buck. Cuellar: No it’s not. Did you know that only 58 percent of undocumented aliens are of Mexican descent? According to the Pew Research Center 23 percent are from other Latin American countries while 11 percent come from the area of the Pacific Rim and Asia. To hear the polarizing forces speak today…..some make it sound like Mexico is 100 percent of the problem. As a past member of Homeland Security, I understand first hand a secure border is absolutely critical……but to erect a fence that which there is no measurable data to estimate its ultimate efficiency, is little more than an extravagance that reaps minimal benefits for America. Richard: Gentlemen, thank you both.

Protesting border 'militarization': 250 in El Paso march against surge in immigration reform bill

El Paso Times July 18, 2013 by Lorena Figueroa About 250 border residents as well as community and religious leaders rallied Wednesday in El Paso to protest against what they call the "militarization" of the U.S.-Mexico border under the proposed immigration reform bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. The protest coincided with other similar actions in at least 10 cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., Tucson, San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, Austin, Milwaukee and San Diego. Locally, supporters and members of the Border Network for Human Rights and representatives of other civic and religious groups gathered at Cleveland Square Park, located at Franklin and El Paso streets. They marched to the Chihuahuita neighborhood, where they rallied against the increases in border security as part of a "tradeoff" for legalizing fewer than 8 million undocumented people. They said the measure crucifies the poor and border cities by promoting fear of immigrants and responding to that fear with military force. For a while the protest was at risk of being canceled as police arrived to the park and asked protesters do disperse. Lt. Frank Hernández, from the Special Operations Sections of the El Paso Police Department, explained that organizers failed to secure proper city permits to hold the march and conduct picketing. He said organizers waited until Friday afternoon to apply for the permits, instead of doing it at least two weeks prior to the event. "They know the protocols. We have been in three or four events with them," said Hernández, who added that more than 20 officers were on duty to safeguard the protest.Ê Protesters were told to walk on the sidewalk and obey traffic laws to avoid arrests or citations. However, during the march, a dozen protesters chanting "somos frontera, no zona de guerra" (we are the border, not a war zone) blocked the intersection of El Paso and Father Rahm streets for a couple of minutes. Six of them got citations. Bertha Meléndez said she didn't understand why she got fined when she only executed her right of freedom of speech. Protesters reject the border surge proposed in the amendment that recently passed in the Senate and now is pending in the House of Representatives. The amendment proposes adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the 21,000 currently deployed and building 700 additional miles of border fence. It also proposes spending $46 billion on surveillance and technology at the border, which members of the border network considered as unnecessary. "Immigration reform does not mean more drones, more walls, more helicopters or checks to the Department of Defense and military contractors," said Christina Parker, of the border network. "We are the only place in the world where we are militarizing the border between two allied countries that are not even in conflict," she added. Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas, of St. Pius X Catholic Church, said that making the border look like a war zone betrays the uniqueness of the border cities. "Over seven million people on this side of the border and over nine million on the other side of the border live in peace and harmony because we are family and we are not afraid of each other," he said. Arturo Carmona, executive director of, said the immigration reform bill has gone "in the wrong direction and has crossed the line.", the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the nation, helped with the protest in El Paso and organized similar actions in other parts of the country. "At the beginning of the debate, the bill was bad, but we were able to swallow the pill because it promised the legalization of 11 million undocumented people. But just in a few weeks, the bill changed in to one of extreme militarization, that is willing to legalize only half of the undocumented. We cannot keep supporting it," Carmona said.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Vela wins praise for opposing 'border surge' legislation

Rio Grande Guardian July 3, 2013 by Steve Taylor SAN JUAN, July 3 - A colonia group leader has praised Congressman Filemon Vela for his strong stand against “border surge” legislation. “I so applaud Congressman Vela's bold move,” said Ann Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca. “We do not need any more militarization of the border. The Republican plan would have more boots on the ground than we have in South Korea and we are not at war with Mexico!” Proyecto Azteca builds houses for colonia residents. It is a member of the RGV Equal Voice Network, a coalition of ten colonia groups. “If we cannot find money in Congress for rural housing, health care, education, why are we going to spend all this money militarizing the border?” Cass asked. “The last border wall in the Rio Grande Valley averaged $12.5 million per mile. I would love to have one mile of that spending for housing in the colonias, one mile of that spending for indigent health care, one mile of that spending for community centers, education, more parks, etc. For a border wall? It is immoral. We thank the Congressman for using common sense and saying ‘No!’” Congressman Vela, a Democrat from Brownsville, announced Tuesday he was quitting the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in protest at new provisions in the Senate immigration reform legislation. The bill is known as S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. An amendment to S.744 authored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, requires an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents to be hired to man the southern border with Mexico. The amendment also calls for the completion of 700 miles of border fencing, as well as the use of more cameras, sensors, watchtowers and drones. Because of its focus on border security, the amendment has been dubbed the “border surge” amendment. The Senate bill was passed by a big majority and has been sent over to the U.S. House. “Instead of spending $8 billion on border fence we should be tearing it down, or $30 billion on more agents when we are not even giving the current force the gasoline that they need to do the job,” Vela said Tuesday. “I just have a real fundamental problem with it. To me, we should be tearing the border wall down that we got, not building more. I just think it is important to take a stand on it.” The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has not taken an official position on the Senate immigration reform bill. However, its chair, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, is a strong supporter. “The United States Senate passed landmark legislation designed to create a path for citizenship for millions of undocumented residents who will contribute to this great country the way so many immigrants in the past have done,” said Hinojosa, after S.744 passed the Senate. “The Senate showed us that it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to solve one of our nation's most pressing issues. I applaud the ‘Gang of Eight’ for ensuring the bill they passed provides all immigrants the opportunity to earn citizenship. Now, it is time for my colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow suit and develop a sensible, comprehensive bill that is reflective of our American values.” The Senate bill has also won support from Congressmen Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, and Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. “The bill is a bipartisan bill - it accounts for the political reality in Washington, D.C.,” Castro told reporters in San Antonio on Tuesday. “Many of the provisions are not provisions Democrats are in love with ... but I think it was the best compromise the Senate could come up with.” Taking a different stance to Hinojosa, Gallego and Castro are border Congressmen Vela, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso. They issued a joint statement on the Corker-Hoeven amendment which read: “In 1987 Ronald Reagan famously challenged Russia by declaring: ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ We object to the Corker-Hoeven Amendment. This amendment will condition a pathway to citizenship on the construction of additional border fencing. As congressmen actually representing communities along the US-Mexico border, and having grown up there ourselves, we believe this amendment is an outrageous assault on border culture; and is an ineffective and misguided attempt to solve this country’s immigration issues. For these reasons, we want to be clear: We will oppose any attempt to condition a pathway to citizenship on the construction of additional fencing along the US-Mexico border.” Vela decried the loss of the cross-border culture he grew up in during a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in March. “I wanted to make sure Secretary Napolitano understood that here along our South Texas border, our cross-border culture has been destroyed because of the violence in Mexico,” Vela said, in an interview with the Guardian. Vela said the reason he brought this subject up is because those who live along the border and those who represent the South Texas border region need to let people in Washington know that “the border we now live in is not the same border we lived in just ten years ago.” Vela repeated what many living along the border knows first-hand. “In a relatively short period of time we have gone from a cross-border culture to one where our neighbors and family members who live in Mexico are no longer safe.” Vela said many Mexican nationals have moved to South Texas to avoid the violence. “And, those of us here who enjoyed going across the border no longer can enjoy it like we used to. I think that is a message that Washington needs to hear loud and clear. I think that is something Secretary Napolitano understood, when I met with her,” Vela said.