McALLEN, RGV – In an interview with News Talk 710 KURV, former Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos said state leaders could and should do more to help improve living conditions in border colonias.
The secretary of state has responsibility for colonias and border affairs. Cascos, a Republican, served two years in the post after being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. He resigned last December.
Cascos said that while he supports border security, he believes the state’s leadership should brainstorm solutions to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in colonias in order to maintain health for the children who live in them.
“I understand budgeting $800 million for DPS troopers along the border, but I think the State of Texas should develop a 10- to 15-year plan as to how to address colonias and water and wastewater,” Cascos, a former Cameron County Judge, told KURV.
“These are basic needs and if people are listening and saying, well, it is tax dollars, it is tax dollars, it is a health issue. When you have children living in colonias going to public schools with people that do not live in colonias, that just tends to proliferate a potential epidemic disease of some sort. And I saw that as county judge.”
Cascos discussed his resignation as secretary of state on KURV’s morning show with Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan. He intimated that his inability to get state leaders to address colonia issues was one of the reasons he resigned.
“I was concerned that no one in either side of the aisle is talking about an issue that is relevant to the border, and that is addressing colonias,” Cascos said.
Cascos told KURV that Texas has over 2,000 colonias and that they are home to approximately 400,00 Texans. Cascos said he would like to see state leaders placing their attention on the “pressing needs” of the state, with colonias being one of the most important.
“As you listen to the rhetoric in Austin, they are trying to legislate moral and social issues and I do not know if that is where we really need to be going. We have so many pressing needs in the state,” Cascos said.
When Cascos became secretary of state he asked his point person on border affairs, Chris Valadez, to help set up a colonias working group. One of the likely members of the working group said he did not personally see it come to fruition.
“I was looking forward to fully participating in the colonias working group but it never seemed to be a concern of the state leadership,” Ron Rogers, community organizer and founder of the START Center in San Benito, told the Rio Grande Guardian. “I think Carlos was let down by the leaders in Austin.”
Asked why he left the secretary of state’s office, Cascos said: “The average tenure of a secretary over the last couple of decades had been about 18 months and I had been two years. I didn’t burn out or anything like that but there comes a time when you start seeing things. I am very loyal to conservatism but I started seeing things that I really wasn’t in tune with, to a degree. And the timing was right.”
Cascos said Gov. Abbott is “a great guy to work with” who has done “a lot of good work” for Texas.
“I was a little concerned that no one on either side of the aisle is talking about an issue that is relevant to the border, and that is addressing colonias. You have got over 2,000 colonias in Texas, 400,000 people living in them. You talk about how great Texas is and it is No. 1 in a lot of things. Then you travel along the border and you see the living conditions of almost half a million people. I know there are arguments on both sides, well they deserve it, they do this, they do that, they are all illegal, they’re Hispanic. But that is not necessarily true,” Cascos said.
“I am just a little concerned that no legislator, none of the leadership is really talking about addressing the living conditions of Texans along the border, most of which are not here undocumented. They are legal, believe it or not. That is a concern.”
In coming back home to the Rio Grande Valley, Cascos said he will put aside political campaigns but will continue to engage in public service.
“I am not going to be involved actively in political campaigns but I still intend to stay focused on civic engagement and public service at some level.”
Cascos then opened up more on why he resigned as secretary of state.
“If you listen to the rhetoric in Austin, some people may disagree, some people may agree, but trying to legislate moral and social issues, I don’t know if that is really where we need to be going. We have got so many pressing needs in this state. You read about, wasting a lot of effort and time and tax dollars on things that are infringing upon individuals’ rights. But, for me it was the right time,” Cascos said.
“I do not know what I will do in the future, there are a lot of options for me. I still intend to stay focused on civic engagement or public service at some level. I am sure somebody will want me somewhere.”
Cascos said that being a civilian will give him more freedom to speak on issues he believes are important to Texas.
“It gives me a little bit more latitude to be able to speak without feeling I am being filtered or stifled,” Cascos said. “Border security, it is a federal responsibility. I understand budgeting $800 million for DPS troopers along the border. Whether that is efficient, I do not have enough information to make that determination.”
The secretary of state’s office administers elections in Texas. KURV’s Tim Sullivan asked Cascos what he thought of photo ID legislation. Cascos said he has no problem with photo identification being required when a person goes to vote. But he also said he does not believe voter fraud is rampant. He called on KURV to check how many impediment declarations were signed this election cycle.
“The voter ID, I don’t have an issue with that. Pretty much everyone has some kind of acceptable photo identification. I was out there and most everybody provides some kind of acceptable photo ID. I don’t believe voter fraud is rampant. I didn’t see that anywhere I went. Does it exist? Yes, I believe it does but I don’t believe it is going to happen at the ballot box,” Cascos said.
“Where it happens is where you lose control, in the mail-in ballots. That is where I think the internal controls are not adequate. Do I have an answer? Yes, but it would probably be too costly. You have vote harvesters, aka, politiqueros/politiqueras. They are called different things in different parts of the state. If you request a mail-in ballot you have a sworn oath-taking election official go to that household and help them. It would be somewhat costly. But, it (voter fraud) is not rampant. To blame South Texas and the border, no, no, no. It happens everywhere.”