|AUSTIN, August 5 - Mike Seifert, network weaver for RGV Equal Voice, today gave testimony at the state Capitol in opposition to further militarization of the border.
The former Catholic priest and community activist from Brownsville told the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety that the Valley does not need any more "boots on the ground." He said that in his 26 years in the Valley the region has never had as many Border Patrol agents. He said the federal agency has things under control.
Here is Seifert's testimony in full:
My name is Michael Seifert. I am a resident of Brownsville, Texas. I have lived in the Rio Grande Valley for the past 26 years. Twenty two of those years I served as a Roman Catholic priest in five different communities; all of them within five miles of the border.
It is my experience as a priest, a community advocate and now a husband to a pediatrician in a community clinic that informs my testimony to you today.
Contrary to what popular media says and what people who live far, far away from the border think, we do not need any more boots on the ground along the southern border. In my 26 years as a resident, I have never seen so many customs and border patrol agents in our neighborhoods. They park along the border levee, every quarter mile. Every other night, there is a helicopter hovering above my home. I see border patrol biking our streets, patrolling our playgrounds, checking out people walking into our grocery stores. They board city buses and ask people for their papers and the Brownsville airport, a nice but very small terminal, can have three agents running a check point. Apart from children, the amount of people crossing into the USA is the lowest since 1974. The border patrol has things under control.
They have their hands full with the children, but that is a processing issue. They are no less visible, no less present now. We do not need or want more boots on the ground.
We are the poorest region in the nation, and yet stand on the verge of some truly transformative moments. SpaceX has signed a contract, a super highway and railway connecting the Mexican West coast with the Texas Gulf coast through the Port of Brownsville is near completion. We are about to open a medical school and a new university has been founded. We need this business. But we are rightly terrorized that troop carriers and even more military and police presence will squelch the bit of momentum we are finally enjoying. Rio South Texas Economic Council, a premier economic develop group, was the first to react to Gov Perry’s plan to send national guard troops. They said, please, no, no troops. we are fine, we are peaceful, we are safe.
Last month, Sean Hannity visited us, and described the border as a chaotic war zone. A day later, we had 200 Japanese business executives visiting who were considering investing in the area. You can imagine how that incorrect, unfair characterization affected the conversation. National Guard troop carriers would cement those characterizations.
It is true that there are border residents who do not feel safe—but not because of huge amounts of illegal immigration, but because of the huge number of federal agents. Over the past four years, we have lost over a third of our winter visitors.
A $93 million loss.
My wife, as a doctor, has kids who ask her if they are in danger—if there are so many agents, something bad must be going on.
I invite you to come see for yourselves. You will be safe. We are one of the safest communities in the entire country.
I love the Rio Grande Valley. It is my home. I object to its characterization as a lawless territory in need of a military presence. According to the DPS’s own statistics, Houston has three times the amount of violent crime. Send the troops there—they need the help.
Brownsville TX 78520