MCALLEN, RGV – Scott Nicol, a top environmentalist in the Rio Grande Valley who is writing a book about the border wall, has responded to speculation that President Trump is about to visit the region.
“President Trump should meet with landowners, look them in the eye, and tell them why he wants to condemn their property for his border walls,” Nicol said.
“Why is his vanity project more important than land that has been passed down through local families since the 1760s? If he is afraid to face up to the consequences of his actions he should stay in Mar A Lago or Washington, D.C.”
President Trump is slated to deliver an address in prime time from the Oval Office this evening about border security on the southwest border being a national emergency. He is expected to use the word “crisis” time and again.
Trump wants to build a border wall but Congress will not sanction the funding. One way to get around that is for the president to declare a national emergency and use Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
Trump is expected to visit the border region on Thursday with McAllen a possible destination.
“Border walls planned for the Rio Grande floodplain in Starr county will dam floodwaters, with the potential to destroy property and drown people in towns on both sides of the river. If Congress gives Trump billions of additional dollars it won’t matter if they call the new barriers walls or fences or steel slats, the damage will be the same.”
Nicol noted that Congress has already given Trump the money to wall off nearly all of Hidalgo County and parts of Starr County.
“His walls will tear through Roma and Rio Grande City, the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen State Park, La Lomita chapel and many family farms and businesses. Now he has shut down the government to force Congress to give him billions more to wall off everything from Falcon Dam to Boca Chica beach. He should be ashamed to show his face in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Trump needs to understand that South Texas is not a prop in his reality TV show.”
An economic developer’s perspective
A top economic development consultant in the Rio Grande Valley has thanked members of Congress from South Texas for “sharing the reality” of life on the border.
Ramiro Garza says all the rhetoric of their being a crisis at the southwest border that deserves national emergency status is hurting the Valley’s investment opportunities.
“Our members of Congress are fighting for us and I want to thank them for sharing the reality of our area. We have to make sure the rest of the world knows we are safe. That this is a great area to invest in. We are an area that is growing and all this negative rhetoric does not help us,” Garza said.
Garza is a former city manager and economic development corporation executive director for Edinburg. He also ran for Congressional District 34, which is anchored in Brownsville. He now runs a consultancy firm that assists Valley communities such as the City of Pharr in landing major economic development projects.
“We really need to commend our members of Congress and advocate they continue fighting for us. I saw Congressman Gonzalez making a statement about McAllen being one of the safest cities with one of the lowest crime rates. Those are the things that need to be out there so I commend him and Congressman Vela and Congressman Cuellar. Money should be going towards our ports of entry to help facilitate international trade. We need to make sure everybody knows the reality here.”
An example of how the border region can lose out on investment due to negative rhetoric will be on display in Fort Worth this week, Garza noted.
“We are having a conference of all the developers that build shopping centers. A lot of communities from the Valley are going to be there. All they are going to hear about is that there is a national emergency on the border. Do you think retailers are going to locate and expand on the border when they hear that?”
Garza said it is sad and tiresome that Valley leaders continue to have to “educate” the rest of the nation about the reality of life on the border.
“Our crime rate is much lower than a lot of areas around the country. This is a safe area to live and work,” Garza said.
Asked what he would tell President Trump if he had the chance, Garza said:
“That is certainly not the case that we have a national emergency. You do not see the FBI director or the CIA director talking about it being a national emergency. For those of us that were born here, were raised here, the reality is it is a safe area and all this rhetoric is having a negative impact on this area.
“President Trump needs to know the reality: that there is not an emergency or a crisis. He needs to know about our economy. It is a bi-national economy. Our trade area does not just encompass the U.S. side. It is also the Mexican side. It is a trade area of four million people. We rely day to day on cross border trade. There is a real impact when information is out there that is not true.”
Garza said it is ironic that the last time a U.S. president visited the Rio Grande Valley, the talk was of economic development and investment.
“Bill Clinton would come down here and would issue executive orders to improve economic development. Certainly that is not the case these days,” Garza said.
A Border Congressman’s Perspective
The possibility of President Trump visiting McAllen prompted this statement from U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen:
“It has come to my attention that President Donald J. Trump intends to visit the U.S.-Mexico Border on Thursday. Let me remind the president that McAllen, Texas, a border city, has experienced some of the lowest crime rates in 30 years.
“I agree that we need to do more to secure our nation’s borders. However, I would remind the president that there are 7,500 open positions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection that have not been filled, and that this should be their top priority. With updated resources, technology, and more border patrol agents, customs officers, and agriculture inspectors, we can keep this nation prosperous and protect our citizens from those who wish to harm us.
“It would be my hope that the president would come to this realization and put his calls for a physical barrier to rest. If the president does visit McAllen, Texas, he should feel free to walk around and support our local businesses– after all it is safer to walk around McAllen than it is D.C.”
Editor’s Note: The photo accompanying the above news story has been provided by Scott Nicol. It shows the border wall between the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse World Birding Center and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.