Texas Cities Oppose Border Fence

Texas cities oppose border fence

By Jerry Seper
The Washington Times
February 21, 2008

(TO AND FRO: A man walked across the bridge between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico, after shopping in the United States on Friday. Critics of a border fence worry that it will disrupt the “binational way of life” on the border. (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times)

EAGLE PASS, Texas Chad Foster, mayor of this Texas border city whose motto is “Where Yee-Hah meets Ole,” isn't itching for a fight with the federal government over the construction of a 15-foot border fence along the Rio Grande. But if one comes, he's ready.

As is Efrain V. Valdez, mayor of Del Rio, Texas, located 56 miles upriver from here, who also has vowed to challenge a $1.2 billion plan by the Department of Homeland Security to build security fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a 65-mile stretch on the western edges of Del Rio and Eagle Pass.

“I'm speaking for 45,000 people when I say that those who want this fence don't understand the border, don't understand our sense of community,” Mr. Valdez said. “We are loyal, devoted Americans. We are not against border security, not against the construction of fences where it makes sense.”

Even Maverick County Judge Jose A. Aranda Jr., a former mayor of Eagle Pass and an outspoken critic of the border fence proposal, thinks Homeland Security's much-ballyhooed efforts to build a border fence is nothing more than a “knee-jerk reaction” to the failure by Congress and the Bush administration to pass a meaningful immigration reform package.

“The fence is a way for the politicians in Washington to convince the American people that they're doing something about illegal immigration,” Judge Aranda said. “But it's simply an illusion.”

They are not alone in their opposition. Similar concerns are being expressed all along the south Texas border, where many civic and community leaders, along with private landowners, have been threatened by the federal government with eminent domain challenges or served with lawsuits.

Nearly 400 municipal officials, community leaders, private landowners and others have been given 30 days to decide whether they will give federal officials access to their properties or face the legal consequences. Lawsuits are being sought against those who refuse.

More than two dozen landowners or public officials, 11 in Texas alone, have been ordered by federal judges, urged by U.S. attorneys appointed by President Bush, to grant the access. Many of those targeted have pledged to block efforts by Homeland Security to survey the proposed fence sites or to begin construction.