Senator Lucio's Letterhead

OP-ED FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2007
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

Concerns Over Border Wall Need Border Summit
By State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

The proposed border wall is akin to the Maginot Line, a fortification the French built after World War I to protect them from further invasions.

The wall proved a failure during World War II because invading German forces maneuvered around it.

The border wall will bring serious economic, ecological and psychological damage to those of us living on both sides of its proposed location, but probably won't do much to deter river crossers.

I've introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 43 in the International Relations and Trade Committee I chair, urging the U.S. Congress to extend laser visa stays from 30 days to six months, to give Mexicans parity with Canadians.

Mexican visitors' expenditures on the Texas border generate $9 billion in sales annually. Yet Mexican tourists don't just visit the border region, they also visit other parts of the state and country, injecting millions of dollars into the economies of these communities. Much like our Mexican visitors, thousands of Canadians spend their winters in South Padre Island with their six-month visas, adding to the area's revenues.

The wall could also negatively impact the $700 billion NAFTA trade in goods and services the three countries -- United States, Mexico and Canada -- currently enjoy.

To prevent further damage, I've called on our state leadership to hold a summit on the border, not in Washington, D.C., allowing the citizenry, experts, border legislators and business groups the opportunity to voice concerns and express alternative ideas to the 153-mile piece-meal barricade planned for certain Texas border cities and counties.

The opportunity to voice opinions was denied after U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff reneged on a promise to the border locals to seek their opinions before even thinking about building the wall.

It is reported that he told Laredo officials and Texas Border Coalition (TBC) members on February 21, 2007, "I do agree that where you have a significant river as a natural obstruction, fencing is not necessarily the right solution."

TBC, the group composed of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions and businesses, continue to voice insightful proposals However, Washington only hears but doesn't listen. The summit would be the perfect forum to explore these ideas.

For example, the $50 billion cost to construct the wall could be better utilized to clear brush, especially the aggressive Carrizo cane, along the Rio Grande, where undocumented immigrants hide and smuggled drugs are stored. This money could also enhance the work of border sheriffs and the Border Patrol.

Brainstorming on long-term plans that would aid Mexico's economy to expand its job base should be another priority. The plan should include serious discussion of a guest worker program that meets the United States' labor and business changing needs, without usurping American jobs. Such a program could be a form of humanitarian aid to the desperate and hungry traversing the Rio Grande for the American Dream.

Virtual technology should be a high priority. There is a Senate bill proposing a pilot program using high-security drivers' licenses for Texas motorists to travel more easily in and out of Mexico. Effective technology could prove a less intrusive means of lowering illegal immigration, while monitoring the border for unsafe activities.

Mr. Dennis Nixon, chairman of the Alliance for Security and Trade in Laredo, said, "...Congress is so focused on the immigration problem on the southern border they are ignoring the gaping holes on the northern border that pose the largest security threat to this country since 9/11."

The summit should also be a forum for Homeland Security to inform us of the reality of terrorist threats from Mexico, especially since the arrests of 17 terrorists last year occurred in
Canada, not Mexico.

Washington also needs to explain threats to condemn riverfront property of Texas landowners through eminent domain, the government's power to condemn private land for public use. Texans shouldn't arbitrarily lose their lands to a federal fence.

If Texans wanted a divider with Mexico, we wouldn't have built 23 international bridges that have increased NAFTA trade and maintained our cultural and familial ties. The border wall can sever our progress and friendship. I, for one, will work to see that it doesn't become Texas' Maginot Line. As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.

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