A guest column written by Stefanie Herweck from the Sierra Club and published in the Rio Grande Guardian on Thursday, March 2, contained false and misleading information that I am compelled to correct.

Her first sentence alleges that I have offered to help President Donald Trump build “his border wall.” That is false.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia

I am adamantly opposed to the wall and shared my concerns during a recent meeting with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul.

However, the reality is that the President of the United States, supported by a Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives, is pushing for a wall as a means to control the border. In fact, the government is already seeking bids on the project to construct a border wall.

While I am hopeful that the President will see reason and change his approach to border security, it is my responsibility as your Hidalgo County Judge and Drainage District Board Chair to seek workable alternatives.

At the February 21 Drainage District #1 Board of Directors meeting, the board –which is comprised of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court members – voted unanimously to send a letter with a proposed Flood Protection Levy Barrier to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, which I signed as the Chairman of the Board. Numerous Mayors including McAllen and the City of Hidalgo support this project to protect our citizens and property from flooding.

In 2008, a prior county administration partnered with the federal government to improve our levee system which acts as natural barrier. However, only 20 of 50 miles of levees were included in that project. To be clear, I was not happy that taxpayer money was used on the IBWC Border Levee project by the prior county administration, and once I got into office I sought to get those monies back. Unfortunately, the contracts signed by the previous administration did not allow for reimbursement.

The question is: Do we sit idly by and wait for the government to build a wall anywhere they like, or find a middle ground where there is a definite identified project that can accomplish both border security and improve flood protection?

I have made it clear that Hidalgo County will not spend one more local tax dollar towards the proposed Flood Protection Levee Barrier project. If the federal government wants to secure the border, they should invest in our federally-owned levees rather than in constructing another fence along the Rio Grande River.

To summarize:

1. I am against a wall and told Speaker Ryan and Chairman McCaul in person.
2. The Drainage District #1 Board of Directors voted unanimously to send a letter outlining a levee improvement project and the mayors of Hidalgo and McAllen support the project.
3. A stronger levee will protect border residents from flooding.
4. The Drainage District #1 Board does not want to contribute any funds towards the project; we believe the federal government should fund the total project cost.
5. The President and Congress have made border security a priority, and we are seeking a solution that would provide much-improved flood protection to Hidalgo County residents.

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