MCALLEN, RGV – Carlos Cascos, former Cameron County Judge and the 110th Secretary of State of Texas, supports further investment to improve the living conditions of the colonias.

Cascos was featured in one of Rio Grande Guardian’s “Conversation with the Candidates” livestream series on Dec. 20, 2017 and spoke of what should be done by the state to address the colonias.

According to Cascos, there are currently an estimated 400,000 residents living in over 2,200 colonias along the border between Brownsville and El Paso. He believes the state of Texas needs to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the living conditions of the colonias, however it is not a popular subject because it may require a cost of $1-$1.5 billion.

“I know that there [are] already funds being distributed through the different agencies to do housing, but it’s not enough,” Cascos said. “Texas needs to make a commitment on top of what they’re already spending–even if it’s $50 million a year for the next 20 years [or] $100 million for the next 10 to 12 years–but come up with a long range comprehensive program to address [the living conditions of the colonias] … [because] I think it’s a quality of life [and] health issue with people and it’s going to take some time to do that.”

One common response Cascos receives for supporting the investment of improving the living conditions along the border is that there are only undocumenteds and illegals living in the colonias. However, Cascos said that information is inaccurate.

“Statistics I read about a year, a year-and-a-half ago [say] something like 70 to 80 percent of everyone under the age of 18 were U.S. citizens living in colonias,” Cascos said. “That message was sent to the leaders. We have to look at that and do something. They’re not going to go away. They’re only going to continue to grow.”

Others argue that if the state invests in improving the colonias more would pop up and the issue would never be resolved. However, Cascos says that is part of local control and there are more building regulations placed to mitigate the growth of the colonias.

He also emphasized the need to recognize why colonias got started. Cascos said there was acreage of land purchased by developers and solds lots on a contract. For a lot of the immigrants, that was the American dream–living in a shanty on a piece of land they owned.

“People [were] trying to better themselves–being able to afford a piece of property that didn’t have infrastructure. They were used to living in third-world conditions, so this was really better,” Cascos said. “They had outdoor privies, no running water, no paved streets, but that was 50 to 60 years ago and things have changed. I believe Texas is the best state to live in … but at the same [if we] want to continue being the best place in the world, [then] we demonstrate by investing. Our best resource is our people.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series based on the interview we conducted with Carlos Cascos live on Facebook. Click here to read Part One.

Former Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos is our guest today for the latest in our series, Conversation with the Candidates.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Wednesday, December 20, 2017