REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca wants his state to “pick up the pieces” if the Affordable Care Act collapses, a Rio Grande Valley mayor says.

Weslaco Mayor David Suarez and other Valley leaders met privately with Cabeza de Vaca on Friday following a celebration of the partnership that exists between the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores and South Texas College.

The IIES-STC alliance currently focuses on providing customized workforce training for maquiladora workers. According to Suarez, Cabeza de Vaca wants the partnership expanded into the healthcare arena.

“Gov. Cabeza de Vaca is trying to get more nurses certified here,” Suarez said.

“He wants to expand healthcare here because if Obamacare does, eventually, go down, Reynosa can pick up the pieces so our Valley residents can come over here for their medical needs. The Governor was clear, he wants more nurses and he wants them to be bilingual. He thinks South Texas College can help.”

Currently, tens of thousands of Valley residents cross into the Tamaulipas border cities of Matamoros, Rio Bravo (Nuevo Progreso), and Reynosa to get medical help since the cost of medicine and treatment is often more affordable.

Also in the meeting with Cabeza de Vaca were Reynosa Mayor Maki Ortiz, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge.

Suarez said Cabeza de Vaca voiced concerns about President Trump’s plans for a border wall.

“We echoed the concerns he has. He is very concerned about the border wall and the impact federal policies will have on the local economy,” Suarez said.

“He assured us he is working really hard on this side with regard to security and violence so that we can all prosper. He has the same views we do, that the river unites us, not divides us.”

Suarez said another topic of discussion was whether Customs & Border Protection is yanking more visas from Mexican visitors.

“Mayor Darling asked if they are having any problems with visas being pulled by Customs and Border Protection. He [Cabeza de Vaca] said they are and they are concerned about it. Mayor Darling asked, how can we help, because it is affecting both sides.”

Suarez commented that the fear of visas getting pulled has led people to cross the international bridges less frequently.

“They are afraid. The visas are getting pulled for ‘x’ reason, the word is getting out there, and fewer people are crossing. They are afraid of having their visa pulled and this is affecting the shopping.”

Transportation Project

Suarez also spoke about a private meeting he had in Reynosa before the IIES-STC celebration. The meeting included Tamaulipas Economic Development Secretary Carlos Talancón and Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, a director for Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes and a cousin of the Tamaulipas governor.

Suarez said the meeting focused on a major transportation project for the Mid-Valley region that would see more double trailers crossing the Progreso International Bridge and an overweight corridor designation for FM 1015 between Expressway 83 and Monte Cristo Road in Edinburg.

Suarez pointed out that Progreso “is the one bridge that has the permit for double trailers.” So, he said, Mid Valley leaders are trying to get overweight corridor designation “from Expressway 83 all the way along 1015 to Monte Cristo and then on to 281.”

“The Secretary (Talancón) has already researched it. Progreso is the only bridge that has the permit to take double trailers, the piggyback trailers.”

Suarez said federal funding is in place on the U.S. side. He said U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez has asked to identify further needs while they wait for a follow-up meeting with Secretary Talancón.

“Vicente Gonzalez has asked us to find out what else we need on both sides. When they come back from China and South Korea, we will meet again. It is going to be big,” Suarez said.

Suarez said demand for an overweight corridor leading to Progreso International Bridge is already in place.

“We have a guy who is already exporting steel from Houston to the Rio Grande Valley by train. He then takes the steel on trucks into the interior of Mexico and then he brings aggregate back,” Suarez said.

“We want the overweight corridor. The RMA has already approved it. Now we are waiting for TxDOT to approve it.”

Suarez said Secretary Talancón is supportive of the project. “He said it would attract truck traffic like flies to honey.”

Suarez added: “We are excited. We have the support on our side and theirs. It is big for us. We want cold storage on the south side.”

Suarez said another topic brought up in the private meeting was water.

“The Governor wants to meet with Valley leaders to discuss a water project he wants to unveil.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Tamaulipas Economic Development Secretary Carlos Talancón, Weslaco Mayor David Suarez, and Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court Precinct 1 consultant Pepe Cabeza de Vaca. (Photo: RGG/Karen Reyes)