PHARR, RGV – The next chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño has blasted national leaders that use the border region as a “political football.”

Treviño made his comments in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM just before the release of a new proposal by TBC to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and break the impasse in Washington that has closed nine U.S. government departments and dozens of federal agencies.

“Border security has been a political football since before the Secure Fence Act. The first reason they gave us for building the wall was, we have got to keep the terrorists out. Okay, we did that. Hidalgo County, for one, benefited because their levees also got repaired,” Treviño said.

“Now we fast forward ten or 12 years and the border has become, quote-unquote, insecure again. It is disheartening, it is wrong to utilize where we live as a political ploy for the rest of the country to blame immigrants, legal or otherwise, as the root of all evil in our country. That is just not true.”

Treviño won praise from other Rio Grande Valley leaders for reacting quickest to an apparent attempt by a Border Patrol union official to co-opt the leaders into supporting President Trump’s border wall proposals. 

At a roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz on the day President Trump visited the Valley, Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol Council, a union for Border Patrol agents, appeared to be negotiating on behalf of Trump.

“If the president was to give the infrastructure that was necessary at the ports of entry, would you support physical barriers,” Judd asked the local mayors and county judges.

“We not talking about a 2,000-mile wall, we are talking about physical barriers in strategic locations.”

Judge Treviño responded: “If you tell us where you need it, I think we are all on board. If the politicians tell us where we need it, I think that is where we have our concern.”

The Rio Grande Guardian/RGV Public Radio 88 FM interview with Treviño took place at Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez’s State of City Address, held at the Pharr Events Center.

“I am here to let Mayor Hernandez know that we can partner up on numerous regional projects. I congratulate Pharr and Hidalgo County for the success they are having. My goal when I was mayor of Brownsville and now as county judge is to expand the pie and get rid of some of the provincialism and disputes we have had in the past. I think we can get a lot more done if we work together,” Treviño said.

Treviño reiterated that Valley leaders are willing to work with border enforcement agencies, if they are requesting additional resources for security reasons, not political ones.

“If Border Patrol or Customs says we need these tools, including physical barriers, even though personally I may not be fond of it, if it helps them do their job, then I am all for it. But the idea of building a wall, show me one independent, verifiable, comprehensive study that says a wall will serve this purpose. We do not have it. This is purely a political campaign promise.”

Treviño said that, unfortunately, border security is now being used to scare the general public.

“Let us be real about this. This has become something else. It is a diversionary tactic to keep people of a certain persuasion, a certain look or a certain last name, either out of the country or to get rid of them from our country; or to make them be the scapegoat for whatever is wrong in our country.”

Treviño added: “This has become a political football. Let’s put the politics aside for a few days and figure this out. Using the term ‘insecure border’ as a basis for building a wall that will not stop the flow of drugs, that will not stop the flow of undocumented immigration, that will not stop human trafficking, all of these particular issues can be better addressed with investment through infrastructure, investment in our law enforcement, with boots on the ground, and giving them the tools and resources they need.”

Texas Border Compact

Laredo Mayor Pete Sanez

Treviño is next in line to replace Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz as chairman of TBC. On Monday, Saenz laid out the group’s new ‘Texas Border Compact.’

”The Texas Border Compact emerges from meetings TBC officials had last week with President Trump, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and local stakeholders,” Saenz said. “It is informed by our deep understanding as local government officials have of the challenges that confront border communities and what works best to provide security for U.S. citizens.”

Saenz said the compact is built on three bipartisan “legislative pillars” sponsored by Texas representatives in Congress and founded on bipartisan legislation recently enacted by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Gary Peters, D-Mich.

The three pillars of the Texas Border Compact are:

  • The bipartisan Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act sponsored by U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, to require the deployment of the most practical and effective border security technologies to secure the border, in consultation with local stakeholders (including county and municipal elected officials), based on a mile-by-mile cost justification. The bill requires the immediate eradication of carrizo cane and salt cedar on the banks of the Rio Grande River to give Border Patrol unimpeded line-of-site to interdict illegal crossers.
  • The bipartisan Border and Port Security Act sponsored by U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, and Peter King, R-N.Y., would require the hiring of 500 new customs inspectors and 100 new agricultural inspectors each year at the the international border crossings, known as ports of entry until the total number of officers equals the requirements identified each year in the annual Workload Staffing Model; Homeland Security officials told Congress in 2018 that the department is 4,000 officers short today.
  • A yet-to-be-introduced bill announced by Rep. Vela to provide $4 billion to modernize ports of entry to address the deficit identified by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan during congressional hearings last year.

Saenz said these provisions would be subject to the United States Ports of Entry Threat and Operational Review Act, sponsored by Sens. Cornyn and Peters and recently signed into law by President Trump. This act requires a six-month in-depth analysis of the strengths, opportunities, and vulnerabilities of ports of entry to identify modernization needs in terms of personnel, technology and infrastructure.

Saenz noted that border security is needed both at the ports of entry, where 90 percent of the hard drugs are smuggled into the U.S., and between the ports where most undocumented entries occurs.

“We agree with our bipartisan leaders in Congress that between the ports we need a smart wall built with high-tech resources like sensors, radar, LIDAR, fiber optics, drones and cameras to detect and then track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol to perform the most difficult task – interdiction,” Saenz said.

“At the ports of entry, we need the personnel, technology and infrastructure that will enable our customs and agricultural inspectors to more effectively achieve their goals of stopping illegal trafficking and facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

“Our nation has no time to wait. The government shutdown over the issues of border security needs to be resolved immediately so that we can get the country back to work. The Texas Border Coalition wants the nation to know that local leaders working with our elected officials in Congress have the know-how and local knowledge needed to implement effective border security that meets the challenge.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr.

Editor’s Note: Monica Weisberg-Stewart chairs the TBC’s immigration and border security committee. Last week she sat down for an interview live on Facebook with Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor. Here is the interview:

President Trump was in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas last week to promote his Border Wall plan. How should border communities react? A discussion with McAllen businesswoman Monica Weisberg-Stewart, chair of the Texas Border Coalition’s immigration and border security committee.

Publicado por Rio Grande Guardian en Jueves, 17 de enero de 2019