MISSION, RGV – A top South Texas Republican has called on the House leadership to hold hearings along the border before that chamber’s immigration reform legislation is finalized.

Hollis Rutledge, a former chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party and a former president of the Texas Republican Party County Chairmen’s Association, said the hearings are needed so members of Congress working on immigration and border security legislation can hear from border mayors and county judges.

“We really need to get the congressional people to have a hearing down here, to have a briefing from the community leaders,” Rutledge told the Guardian. “A series of border hearings are needed because many people in other parts of the country simply do not know what we need in terms of border security. House members need to come here, to ground zero, and learn what we are talking about.”

Hollis Rutledge
Hollis Rutledge

A case in point, Rutledge argues, is the misguided support for more border fencing. Rutledge said the current border walls do not work and are too expensive. He said the money could be spent on more worthwhile security apparatus, such as boats on the Rio Grande, towers on the banks of the Rio Grande, drones, sensors and cameras.

“A fence is not the answer. We are limited in our day and age at the federal- level so let us try something that works better. What better than to have a high tech solution, like the military does? I am talking about the drones, the boots on the ground, the boats, they work,” Rutledge said.

“To me, more fencing has been added to the Senate bill simply to appease the rest of America. The senators who proposed more fencing simply have no earthly idea. They think the fence is the answer. It is not. It is the biggest boondoggle of taxpayer money.”

The immigration reform bill passed by the Senate requires the completion of 700 miles of fencing on the southern border, as well as a doubling of Border Patrol agents. The cost would be $46 billion. “We can put that fence money to better use. We have got to manage our resources better. If you had a virtual wall, with towers on the border, you can monitor it from Dallas. You can deploy your human resources where the hotbed is. That is where the money should go,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge has long argued for an expanded guest worker program. He would like to see the program managed by the private sector because he believes it would be more efficient and responsive to the needs of the labor market.

“Many immigrants, unbeknown to a lot of people who do not live on the border, would rather come here for six months and then go home. They would rather do this than stay here like the 11 million undocumented immigrants we have are forced to do,” Rutledge said.

“We have a broken immigration system that has destroyed families, led to thousands of deaths in the deserts, and women being raped. Do you think the immigrants who have made it all the way to Detroit or Chicago are going to go back and do that all over again? They had no choice but to stay here,” Rutledge said.