BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Congressman Henry Cuellar is working to protect the SpaceX project at Boca Chica Beach from being stranded on the wrong side of President Trump’s proposed Border Wall.
Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, is the only congressman on the special House-Senate homeland security conference committee to represent a U.S.-Mexico border district.
He secured language in a Democratic proposal to prevent wall funding in protected areas along the border.
“The Vista del Mar Ranch tract of land of the lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, intended to be home to a SpaceX commercial spaceport, stands in the path of President Trump’s border wall plans,” a Cuellar news release states.
“The land is a launch site still under construction in Boca Chica Village, a small community between the border town of Brownsville and the Gulf Coast.”
Other provisions inserted by Cuellar in the Democratic package include prohibiting the use of funds for border wall construction in Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, La Lomita Historical Park, and the National Butterfly Center.
Cuellar, a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee and a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittees of Homeland Security, Defense and Agriculture, added language in the fiscal year 2019 Democratic border security proposal prohibiting the use of funds from this and prior year Acts to construct physical barriers in the following locations:
- Within or north of the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge;
- Within or north of the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park;
- Within or north of La Lomita Historical Park;
- Within, south of, or north of the National Butterfly Center; or
- Within, north of, or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, SpaceX.
“This is a big win for South Texas. I worked hard to include this language because I know we can secure the border in a much more effective way, and at a fraction of the cost, by utilizing advanced technology and increasing the agents and properly equipping them on the border,” Cuellar said.
“I have been outspoken against President Trump’s wall because as someone who lives on the border, I understand firsthand that a massively expensive wall is nothing more than a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century challenge. I speak with constituents, landowners, and law enforcement professionals regularly and we all know that this is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars.”
Cuellar said he is not the only border member of Congress that should take credit for the language included in the Democratic proposals.
“I would like to thank Congressmen Vela and Gonzalez for working with me on this language. In addition, I would like to thank Chairwomen Lowey, Roybal-Allard, and Speaker Pelosi for including these important provisions in the proposal,” Cuellar said.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville and U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen represent districts on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cuellar provided this information on the areas he is trying to “protect” from a Border Wall:
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
Federally protected habitat for the endangered ocelot and Gulf Coast jaguarundi, which was originally slated by the Trump Administration as the starting point for the wall. Rep. Cuellar also helped secure a similar provision in last year’s appropriations bill to prohibit wall funding in or around the refuge.
Protecting Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
The Democratic funding package includes provisions prohibiting the use of funds for its construction in Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, a protected area that have been set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plant resources in the Congressman’s district that attract tourists from around the world.
National Butterfly Center
The National Butterfly Center is home to a 100-acre wildlife center and botanical garden that borders the Rio Grande River and is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Corridor. According to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas has the most diverse butterfly and bird fauna of any area of the United States.
La Lomita is a Catholic chapel, built in 1899 in Mission, and is a tourist attraction because of its rich history as a site where Calvary of Christ missionaries performed baptisms, marriages, and funerals. When the City of Mission, Texas was founded in 1908, the city was named “Mission” in honor of La Lomita Chapel. Now, La Lomita Chapel is a religious shrine and a favorite site of historians that provides a glimpse into an important part of the history of Mission and South Texas in general.
The Vista del Mar Ranch tract of land of the lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, intended to be home to a SpaceX commercial spaceport, stands in the path of President Trump’s border wall plans. The land is a launch site still under construction in Boca Chica Village, a small community between the border town of Brownsville and the Gulf Coast.
Construction of a border wall is a federal responsibility. However, at the state level, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen has announced he is doing what he can to step a physical barrier being erected at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.
Hinojosa filed Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) No. 13 to protect the park, calling it a “treasured site.” The resolution, if passed, would urge the United States Congress to oppose construction of a border wall through the 600 acre park along the Rio Grande which serves as a wildlife corridor that allows native species to survive.
“Bentsen State Park is one of the RGV’s most treasured and visited sites. Not only is it part of the World Birding Center which attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually, it is also a gathering place for families and friends of all ages and economic status,” Hinojosa said.
“Our state parks protect our native wildlife and also help promote a healthy lifestyle for our residents. I will do everything I can to protect this park for our children, grandchildren and future generations.”
Hinojosa said he has already sent a letter to the U.S. Border Patrol Branch Chief expressing his concerns about the proposed wall and the impact it would have on park operations, wildlife habitat, and public visitation that would lead to a decrease in public visits and even possible closure.
Hinojosa encouraged the Border Patrol leadership to continue exploring alternatives to the wall project and noted that as vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and member of the conference committee that writes the final budget, he has secured millions for the Texas Parks and Wildlife to protect our border and provide safety for those visiting the park.
In the letter to U.S. Border Patrol Senator Hinojosa made the following request:
“I am requesting that CBP work with TPWD to look for alternatives to reduce or limit the damage done to Bentsen State Park. Border security is best achieved through collaborative working relationships and enhanced communication between our federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story comes from a video produced by the Austin American-Statesman about the SpaceX project at Boca Chica Beach. Click here to watch the video.