MCALLEN, RGV – Two border congressmen representing much of South Texas have given their thoughts on President Trump’s first State of the Union address.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez both liked much of what Trump had to say, though they acknowledged they do have differences of opinion with the White House on some policy positions.
Cuellar, D-Laredo, said: “Tonight, in his State of the Union speech, President Trump addressed the nation and laid out an agenda for the American people. I am hopeful that the framework presented by the President will guide the country towards economic growth and prosperity.”
Cuellar added: “Over the past year, I have worked with the Administration on a number of emerging issues that directly affect the people and families in my district. And although there have been times where I have adamantly disagreed with the President’s policies regarding immigration, border security, transportation and trade, I am confident that both sides of the aisle will proactively work together in a bipartisan way towards solutions that are good for Texas and the country.
“I look forward to creating more opportunities for all Americans, and will work with the President, Democrats and Republicans in ensuring that we fight for the middle class and do what’s ultimately best for the citizens of this country.”
Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said: “Tonight, we listened to President Trump outline his vision for our country/ I may not agree with every point the president raised, but I believe we should respect the Office of the President, hear his ideas and consider them in full faith and effort. Having listened, I will consider tonight’s message while working with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to solve our nation’s problems.
“That said, we cannot shy away from the tasks at hand: permanent status for DREAMers, innovative approaches to our border security, long-term funding for vital health programs, reducing pharmaceutical prices, updates to NAFTA, smart investments in our country’s infrastructure, and a real budget deal. These are bipartisan priorities that we must address with greater expediency. American lives and livelihoods depend on it. The American people expect results. Anything short of that is unacceptable—plain and simple.”
Texas Border Coalition
One of the major items on the agenda of both Trump and Congress is what to do with DREAMers and whether any legislation that allows them to stay in the United States should be tied with border security reform.
On this front, the Texas Border Coalition (TBC) has been evaluating a number of proposals that are currently under consideration in Washington. TBC is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions focused on issues that affect 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville.
“TBC is grateful to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for his leadership on behalf of border communities to help secure the border by eliminating Carrizo cane, hiring more Customs inspectors, upgrading the land ports of entry and hiring more immigration judges,” said Laredo Mayor and TBC Chairman Pete Saenz.
Saenz noted that TBC has long supported a permanent solution for “DREAMers” in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He said the coalition strongly supports efforts by the Texas border delegation and others to pass the DREAM Act and, more recently, the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA Act) sponsored by U.S. Reps. Cuellar and Will Hurd, R-San Antonio.
In a news release by TBC pointed out the group’s stance:
Some have suggested that a permanent solution for Dreamers can only be achieved at the price of building a border wall. For more than a decade, TBC has opposed a border wall, because it is a waste of money, destroys the environment and disregards private property
rights. TBC suggests any security strategy needs to prove it will solve the problem. As border residents, they believe the drug cartels are the most significant threat to security and should be battled where they smuggle their drugs, cash and weapons – at the international bridges and other official Ports of Entry. The USA Act requires a mile-by-mile test to prove whether a wall or other tactics would be the most effective security solution, including technology.
Even though no city or county on the Texas-Mexico border is a sanctuary, TBC also opposes any unnecessary federal intrusion on local governments and the creation of barriers between law enforcement and the community they serve. The coalition does not support the inclusion of a sanctuary city law into border security legislation.
Further, TBC is concerned about proposals to implement mandatory biometric exit systems at the international bridges and other land ports of entry. Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is severely understaffed to handle incoming traffic and has been unable to hire sufficient officers to replace retirees, much less meet current workload requirements. At the international bridges in Texas, the infrastructure was not designed for departure inspections. Port infrastructure is not capable of tracking an outgoing flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic with biometric systems, causing needless backups on local and state roadways. None of these proposals address the need for land acquisition at the many ports, which have little space to expand. We oppose a mandatory biometric exit system until the Congress has provided the necessary personnel, infrastructure and technology to handle CBP’s current workload.
“TBC understands these are thorny, difficult issues,” Saenz said. “We appreciate the leadership of Senator John Cornyn, Representatives Hurd and Cuellar and the rest of the Texas border delegation. TBC will continue to work with Congress and the Trump Administration to achieve immigration and border security outcomes worthy of a great nation.”
Saenz said TBC is working closely with the state and federal government to educate, advocate, and secure funding for transportation, immigration and border security, workforce development, economic development and health care. For more information, visit the coalition website at: www.texasbordercoalition.org.