For more than 60 minutes Republican U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn met in a round table discussion with border stakeholders spanning from Laredo to Brownsville, all eager to make sure their message is sent back to Washington D.C.
The round table came at the heels of a border tour with President Donald Trump. One-by-one mayors, county judges, members of Customs and Border Protection leadership and leaders of regional interest groups pleaded with the Texas Senators for border security without the rhetoric that makes the Rio Grande Valley seem like one of the most dangerous places in the United States.
“We know the communities here are some of the safest in the country and some of the rhetoric you hear would lead people to believe conditions here are not safe, that is not true,” Cornyn said. “We do know criminal organizations make a lot of money moving people and drugs from Mexico through and across the border causing a lot of human misery.”
Topics included technology, infrastructure at the several ports of entry, adding more personnel to CBP and fair market value for property that will be taken by the government.
Take Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez who said it is no secret what the problems are at the border. But at the end of the day Hernandez said technology and infrastructure for bridges is key because of the drugs being confiscated at the ports of entry.
“Try and bring closure to these issues,” he said. “We need immigration reform, border security with a smart wall and now is the time for us to mobilize our thoughts together and put infrastructure for all our bridges so we can really capture the unwanted and terrible individuals that come across to our part of the country.”
Technology is a problem not only at the border but in the region as a whole. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said there are too many people in the region without internet. Wireless companies have said the technology is on the way but Darling said they would not volunteer to do the work.
If the companies are going to reap the benefits of a public utility they should carry the weight and obligation of a public utility.
Cruz agreed as having 5G bandwidth is critical for economic development.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino said a living-thriving barrier would be efficient to make life more difficult for traffickers.
Trevino, along with several of the other leaders, has a problem with the assumption and inaccuracy that the border is not secure.
“Can we do more,” he asked. “Of course, always, but starting with the premise that the border is insecure and therefore we need more border security is what creates the dilemma.”
Texas is the thriving economic state in the union.
Eminent domain was another topic discussed.
Mission Mayor Dr. Armando O'Caña has a problem because the current plans for the border wall call for the symbol of Mission to be kept out of the country.
Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell echoed rhetoric is giving the region a bad name. As the media hypes the Rio Grande Valley as dangerous, the region is hampered by the fallout.
He gave the example of the Veterans Affairs system that is centered in the Rio Grande Valley for Laredo and Corpus Christi.
They have difficulty recruiting specialists because the spouses are concerned about safety.
“The constant barrage is not good for business, not good for education, not good for developing the region and the political party that declares victory on securing the border will be a lot better off than the party who just wants to continue to fight,” Boswell said.
He encouraged the Senators to say they have secured the border and stop the onslaught of continual information that is just wrong about what is happening in the Rio Grande Valley.
Director of the Laredo Field Office for Customs and Border Protection David Higgerson put border security into numbers for the group. For instance, there is over $300 billion worth of trade in the Texas ports of entry.
The incredible amount of money attributes to seven out of 10 trucks that cross the Southern border do so under the watchful eye of the Laredo Field Office (LFO). In a single day, the LFO issues about 5,000 i9's, which attribute to people entering the United States for tourism.
In the last five years there has been about a five percent growth of traffic that crosses the Laredo Field Office.
Higgerson said there has to be a development of ports with infrastructure. They need more room to conduct medical screenings and to hold immigration court. He also agreed with Darling as to the need for more wifi at the ports.
As the round table concluded, the president of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd chimed in with a question.
“If the president were to give the infrastructure that was necessary at the ports of entry,” he asked. “Would you support physical barriers?”
He was not talking about a 2,000-mile way, but physical barriers in strategic locations.
Trevino spoke for the group.
“You tell us where you need it, I think we're all on board,” he told Judd. “If the politicians tell us where we need it, that is where we have our concern, we want you to have everything you need to do your job, we want you to be safe when you do it and at the same time lets not be wasteful.”