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Texas Tribune reporter Julian Aguilar moderated a panel discussion about the 85th Legislative Session, with state Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, of Harlingen, and state Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, RGV – South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel says the verbal and legislative attacks being made by state and federal leaders against the Texas-Mexico border region have never been greater.

For this reason, he said, he values the work of the Texas Border Coalition in defending the region from attack.

“The Texas Border Coalition is one of the most import organizations along the border at this moment in history,” Patel said. The businessman and hotel owner pointed out that he has worked on the border region for 25-plus years and lived here for 20 years.

“Never have I seen such assault on the border, from Texas state legislators, and at the federal government level,” Patel said.

“We can all be doing everything right with our businesses, we work hard, we hire people, we train them, we send them all over the country, and we bring them back here and they are ready to work. And we are assaulted by our state and federal leaders that are supposed to be pro-business. So, I really appreciate this organization.”

Patel made his comments as he welcomed the TBC for its 2017 Summer Meeting. The day-long event was held at one of Patel’s hotels, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on SPI. Patel said he is ready to help TBC in whatever capacity he can and thanked its leaders for putting out informative information to help the border respond to attacks.

“I am excited about the Valley, I am excited about all the great things that are going on. I think our best days are still ahead of us. We at the city work every single day to make South Padre Island economically viable and vibrant. I am sure it is same Valley-wide,” Patel said.

McAllen businesswoman Monica Weisberg-Stewart chairs TBC’s immigration and border security committee. She said she is constantly being asked for reaction from reporters to the comments and actions of state and federal leaders. Most of the reporters that call, she said, are from outside the region.

“It is a very challenging because perception is not reality. We are constantly battling it,” Weisberg-Stewart said, referencing the inaccurate commentary of some elected officials and media outlets about the border region. She said TBC is making an impact because she sees other organizations picking up the group’s talking points and soundbites.

Various topics were covered at the TBC meeting. Josh Ramirez, environmental health director for the City of Harlingen, gave a presentation on “Combatting Zika and Other Border Health Challenges.” LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna, vice president of government affairs for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber, gave a presentation titled “#OneBorder – New BiNational Effort to Strengthen Border Ties.”

Alberto Rivera and SSG Jacob Pattison, both with the U.S. Army North, Army Reserve Engagement Cell, discussed “Innovative Readiness Training and Border Communities.”

Billy Moore, of Vianovo in Washington, gave an update on TBC’s federal priorities, while Elizabeth Lippincott, also from Vianovo, discussed TBC’s state initiatives. TBC Chairman J.D. Salinas spoke about the group’s future strategy.

There were two panel discussions. One was an overview of the 2017 legislative session and featured state Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso and state Rep. Eddie Lucio of Harlingen. This panel was moderated by Texas Tribune reporter Julian Aguilar and streamed live on Facebook by the Rio Grande Guardian.

The other panel discussion focused on Senate Bill 4 and was titled “Sanctuary City and Show Me Your Papers Law – Local Perspectives.” Weisberg-Steward moderated the discussion, which featured Sen. Rodriguez, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office division chief Joel Rivera, and San Benito Police Chief Michael Galvan.

The Rio Grande Guardian hosted a conversation with five TBC members in a one-hour livestream on Facebook. The five were Cavazos-Reyna of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber, TBC Chair Salinas. Businessman Ben Petty, TBC immigration and border security committee chair Weisberg-Stewart, and City of Laredo Health Director Hector Gonzalez.

LIVE: The Texas Border Coalition is holding its 2017 Summer Meeting on South Padre Island. We are having a conversation with several of its leaders.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Thursday, June 22, 2017


Editor’s Note: The presentation by LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna, of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will be featured in a future edition.