HIDALGO, RGV – South Texas GOP congressional candidate Tim Westley and the Texas Border Coalition have dismissed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to close down the border in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks.

More than 30 people are believed to have been killed in coordinated attacks on Brussels airport and a central metro station. According to news reports, Isis has claimed responsibility.

Texas Border Coalition Chairman J.D. Salinas
Texas Border Coalition Chairman J.D. Salinas

Speaking on Fox and Friends on the Fox News Channel, Trump, the GOP’s frontrunner for president said via telephone: “I would close up our borders until we figure out what’s going on.” He later modified his comment, telling CBS This Morning, “I didn’t say shut it down. I said you have to be very careful. We have to be very, very strong and vigilant at the borders. We have to be tough.”

Former Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas chairs the Texas Border Coalition. President Obama appointed Salinas a regional director for the General Services Administration during his first term of office. Salinas said in response to Trump’s remarks: “Closing our land border with Mexico would be a ridiculous staging of security theater: the practice of false efforts intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it.”

In a statement, Salinas added: “Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has made unprecedented investments in protecting the Southwest Border from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs and contraband. Those investments include personnel, technology and infrastructure. The story of the men and women protecting the Southwest border is a success story: seizing more currency, drugs, and weapons than ever. The Southwest border security team needs more resources, not false efforts that harm morale and the economy.”

Tim Westley, GOP candidate for Congressional District 15.
Tim Westley, GOP candidate for Congressional District 15.

Westley is in the Republican Party runoff for Congressional District 15, an open seat that includes part of the Texas-Mexico border in Hidalgo County. Westley did active duty for seven years in the U.S. Army, specializing in logistics for light infantry units.

“What we have to do as a nation is think strategically. We have to be pre-emptive. If elected to office, I would have dialogue with our border governors, make sure the National Guard is prepared and that we have a plan of action in place,” Westley told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Closing our borders is not realistic. Safety is important but look at the amount of trade we do with Mexico. We are doing about a billion dollars of trade a day, legal trade, between the United States and Mexico. Shutting down the border would not only hurt border communities, it would hurt places like Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota. It is not just the border communities that would be hurt. It would also disrupt travel and relations with our neighbors. We would be hurting ourselves because Mexico is one of our top export nations.”

Westley said he not yet endorsed a candidate for president.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, released the following statement on the bombings in Brussels:

“Today’s bombings in Brussels represent failure by the U.S. and our allies to detect, deter and defend against ISIS and those who wish to do us harm. This attack, following the Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings, point to an urgent need to reassess and update our tactics. We need much more than expressions of sympathy and solidarity; we must demand action from our leaders. In Congress – particularly on the Homeland Security Committee on which I serve – we must shift our focus from obstruction and partisanship to genuine efforts to keep our citizens safe.”

While Trump received criticism for calling for U.S. borders to be closed, another GOP presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, Texas’ junior U.S. senator, was criticized for proposing police patrols in Muslim neighborhoods.

“Ted Cruz is a disgrace. His comments today were worse than opportunistic and inappropriate politicking in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Brussels – they were a shameful display of hate that only serves to foment anger and make the world less secure,” Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Barely before the smoke had cleared, he declared that – here in the United States – we should institute police patrols in Muslim neighborhoods. This is not leadership; it is fear-mongering for political gain. And this is the sad state of Republican leadership today, where the hateful and divisive rhetoric of the GOP’s presidential candidates seems to reach new lows each day. We need to elect a commander-in-chief with the temperament and judgment to respond wisely to the threat of terrorism and global unrest, not a demagogue who defaults to militaristic escalation and racial or religious profiling.”

In his statement about the Brussels attacks, Cruz said that until Isis is “utterly destroyed” it will continue to carry out acts of terror. He said the southern border of the United States needs to be secured to prevent entry by terrorists but did not mention the northern border with Canada, his place of birth.

Here is Cruz’s statement in full:

“Today radical Islamic terrorists targeted the men and women of Brussels as they went to work on a spring morning. In a series of coordinated attacks, they murdered and maimed dozens of innocent commuters at subway stations and travelers at the airport. For the terrorists, the identities of the victims were irrelevant. They –we—are all part of an intolerable culture that they have vowed to destroy.

“For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear.  We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods.

“We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

“We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are at an end. Our country is at stake.”

On Wednesday, Cruz announced he had picked up the endorsement of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.