MCALLEN, RGV – Carlos Cascos is a rarity in the Rio Grande Valley – a high profile leader who supports southbound inspection stations for the region’s international bridges.

Cascos says if the United States is serious about stopping illegal drugs from entering from Mexico it would assist that country by helping to stop cash and weapons going the other way.

Cascos served as the 110th Secretary of State of Texas from Jan. 2015 to Jan. 2017. He is also a former Cameron County Judge and is running for this position again.

Cascos was featured in one of Rio Grande Guardian’s “Conversation with the Candidates” livestream series on Dec. 20, 2017 and highlighted the importance of investing in the U.S.-Mexico border for the benefit of both countries.

During his time as secretary of state, Cascos promoted not only Cameron County, but the whole border because he believed in its investment. In the livestream Cascos gave credit to Ann Richards, the Governor of Texas from 1990 to 1995, as the first governor to really pay attention to the border.

“I remember her saying in a speech [that] she believed the border was the front door to the U.S.–not the back door,” Cascos said. “She was the first governor that really acknowledged the importance of the border and it was followed by Bush, Perry and now, Abbott.”

According to Cascos, he was told he was the only Texas official to attend the inaugural for Jaime Helidoro Rodríguez Calderón–Governor of Nuevo León. During Cascos’ meeting with Calderón, he said Mexico is losing out on tourism because people are too afraid to travel on Mexico’s highways. He suggested to step up patrol on the highways of Mexico because the common means of transportation to-and-from the border is driving. However, Cascos also believes Texas needs to do their part and recommended that the leadership in Washington D.C. establish southbound surveillance. This includes K9 units and additional personnel.

“The reason for [southbound surveillance] is because drug dealers get their cash back … through our ports of entry,” Cascos told the Rio Grande Guardian. “Some of it they catch, [but] most of it they do not. I wanted to have [all] 28 ports of entry in Texas to have K9 units trained to detect weapons … because Texas provides over 73 percent of all illegal weapons going into Mexico through our ports of entry. We need to do our part and Mexico needs to do their part in terms of maybe northbound surveillance–looking for contraband [and] looking for illegals trying to cross over. If we’re partners we have to act like true partners.”

One other way the United States can invest in Mexico is by opening the conversation for a wall along Mexico’s southern borders. Cascos said he recommended this to President Trump because that’s where the people are coming in.

“You don’t have as many Mexicans coming in today as you did five [or] 10 years ago, but you do have others. You have people from all over the world using Central America as a crossing point and that’s a 500-mile stretch versus a 2,200-mile stretch,” Cascos said. “The border wall [dividing the U.S. and Mexico] is going to be an issue. I believe it’s wrong. I didn’t support the first fence. I think we can utilize that investment a little bit better either through drones, through satellites or through boots on the ground. It’s not going to be a one-size fits all.”

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series on Carlos Cascos, all three stories based on a one-hour interview Rio Grande Guardian anchor Mari Regalado conducted for a livestream on Facebook. Click here to watch the livestream.