LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says he intends to bring at least four cabinet secretaries to the South Texas border region once President-elect Biden is sworn into office.

Cuellar is critical of the way President Trump’s cabinet secretaries, when visiting the border region, would not meet with the business community or environmental leaders. Instead, he said, they only focused on the border wall, and border security issues.

The four cabinet secretaries are Deb Haaland, Biden’s pick for interior secretary, Xavier Becerra, who is set to be health and human services secretary, Marcia L. Fudge, who has been chosen to run housing and urban development, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the president-elect’s nominee to run homeland security.

U. S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

All four will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in order to take up their posts.

“There are some friends I intend to bring down here. Deb Haaland is going to be the new interior secretary. She is a friend of mine from New Mexico. I want to see how she can work with us, from the Department of Interior,” Cuellar said.

“We have got Xavier Becerra, who is going to be the health and human services secretary. That is the second person I want to bring down to Laredo. Marcia Fudge, also, is someone that I served with and she is the HUD secretary. Those are the folks that are coming in.”

Mayorkas, the son of Jewish Cuban refugees, would be the first Latino to run the department of homeland security. 

“The new homeland secretary is a friend of mine. I intend to bring him down to Laredo and to the Valley and do a border tour,” Cuellar said.

“They usually go to El Paso and down to the lower Rio Grande or Arizona. I want them to see different areas, including Eagle Pass and other areas that have asked me to look at.”

Cuellar said when visiting the border region, cabinet secretaries need to learn more than border security. 

“As you know, when secretaries under Trump would come they would do one thing. They would get to the border and say, we need a wall, look at the drugs, look at the undocumented aliens and that was it. They wouldn’t include the business community or the environmental groups or other folks,” Cuellar said.

“My intent with these folks is to bring in different folks so they can hear what we can do now and what we can do in the future to protect our communities.”

Cuellar made his comments during a webinar he hosted about ways in which the building of more sections of the border wall can be halted.

Cuellar is hoping Democrats win two Senate runoff elections in Georgia. If they do, his party will control the chamber. The runoff election is Jan. 5. 

Cuellar says if Democrats control the Senate it will be easier for him to enact changes to the Real ID Act passed in 2005. Under this law a president can waive certain environmental laws in the name of homeland security.

“A lot is going to depend on what happens in the Senate on Jan. 5. Because one of the things I want to do long term is to look at some of the changes that we can make to the Real ID law that we passed in 2005 in the shadows of 9/11,” Cuellar said. 

“Trump has really abused those waivers. So, I want to work on that. I also want to put more protections into the law. We got cemeteries, we got SpaceX, we got Santa Ana. La Lomita, Mayor O’Caña, all that is in the law. There are about five or six protections I got but I want to add more.”

Cuellar was referring to Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña, who was on the webinar. He was also referring to areas along the South Texas border where he was able to stop the border wall being built.

Cuellar said tried to get some additional protections, to stop the border wall being built, in the omnibus appropriations bill recently passed by Congress. But, he could not persuade Senate Republicans to agree.

“I had some (protections) on the House side but the Senate Republicans said, well, this money will probably be stopped and I did not get my language in there. I was not part of the negotiations like I was a couple of years ago on the conference committee. It was the top four people that did this,” Cuellar said.

“But I want to add, like you said, Tricia, I want to look longterm. What else can we do now so we can protect the generations to come when it comes to the Rio Grande?”

Cuellar was referring to Tricia Cortez of the Rio Grande International Study Center.

Meanwhile, Cuellar has explained to his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus the ways the incoming Biden Administration can stop the building of more border walls. Here is the analysis he sent the CHC:

Congressman Cuellar’s webinar about ways to halt the building of any further sections of the border wall included remarks by Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña, Starr County Industrial Foundation executive director Rose Benavidez, and Rio Grande International Study Center executive director Tricia Cortez. Here is the webinar:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Deb Haaland, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of the interior.

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