Columns

Lone Star Division Over Practicality, Efficacy of a Border Wall

(Shutterstock)

Jim Darling, the mayor of McAllen, Texas, told Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly he does not want President Trump to build a wall on his state’s border with Mexico.

Pete Saenz, the mayor of Laredo, Texas, feels the same way. He told NPR’s Weekend Edition program the border wall would be a “disaster” for his city because Laredo relies on trade to and from Mexico.

But state Rep. Dennis Bonnen wants to see the wall built. The Republican said his only concern with the Trump administration’s plan is that the wall might not be built fast enough.

It isn’t that Darling and Saenz are unconcerned about illegal immigrants crossing the border. They are. But Darling is more concerned by the potential impact a border wall would have on businesses in McAllen that do business with Mexico and Mexicans.

“Like Americans, Mexicans have pride,” Darling told KENS-TV. “And when you negotiate, there’s no reason to hurt people’s pride.”

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol agents’ union, Brandon Judd, told NPR’s Morning Edition the Trump wall proposal was not meant to hurt anyone’s pride.

“This isn’t a racist wall. We’re not talking about keeping out legal immigrants. We’re talking about keeping out illegal immigrants, and it has nothing to do with race because we get people from all – from everywhere,” Judd said. “We get people from Russia who are white that cross the border illegally. And so this isn’t a racist wall. This is about the security and safety of the United States.”

Saenz said the border wall idea is more than what he called “a disaster.” Given the terrain of the border between Texas and Mexico, he thinks building a wall would be next to impossible.

“It’s impractical. It’s a river. We have creeks that actually feed into the river. We have livestock that actually water there in the river, wildlife,” Saenz said. “I mean, it’s just not practical to build a wall, you know, the thick wall he says and the tall and deep wall. So I just don’t see it, frankly, even if it were possible. I don’t think it is.”

Judd agreed the border terrain would make it impossible to construct a continuous wall from California to Texas. He said nobody’s talking about building “a great wall of the United States.”

Judd said the wall would be built “strategically” at places along the border where better security is needed. And one of those spots, he said, despite what Mayor Saenz may believe, is the Laredo border with Mexico.

Judd described the Laredo border as “extremely violent…so we are looking into locations like that. I think it’s going to be very effective.”

Still, Secretary Kelly didn’t find much love for the Trump administration’s Jan. 25 order that a wall should be built along the U.S.-Mexico border or the floated idea of a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for the wall’s construction.

Kelly toured Texas’ southern border with Gov. Greg Abbott last Wednesday.

Even though Abbott ordered a cut in state funding for Austin because of its refusal to stop being a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, the Republican didn’t bring up the border wall proposal during his State of the State address on Jan. 31.

But following his tour with Kelly, Abbott voiced his support for the Trump administration’s focus on border security.

“I am encouraged by the attention the federal government is giving this serious issue,” said Abbott in a statement. “Together, with the federal government, Texas will not flinch in our resolve to keep our citizens safe.”

State Rep. Bonnen is on board with the Trump administration’s wall proposal, too. It might not be a perfect plan, the Republican told Time Warner Cable News. He also supported the idea of hiring more U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“Boots on the ground is the greatest deterrent and the greatest effort we can have. You combine that with the wall, and I think we’ll have significantly greater success,” Bonnen told Time Warner Cable News.

However, the half-dozen Democrats who make up the El Paso, Texas, Legislative Delegation on Border & Immigration Policy issued a statement that accused Trump of using the White House “to attack border communities and immigrants.”

Not only do the Democrats from the border community of El Paso criticize the border wall proposal as something that would “violate property rights of Americans” and “be prohibitively expensive and ineffective,” but they offered an alternative plan.

“If the president talked to border residents, he would hear that we need to strengthen and streamline our ports of entry, so that we can build upon our economic, cultural, and social ties with our neighbors,” the Democrats said in their statement.

It isn’t just the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico that is troubling to some people in Texas.

Trump’s trial balloon of a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for the wall was immediately shot down in late January by the president of the Texas Association of Business, Chris Wallace.

“Texas’ number one trading partner by far is Mexico, and imposing a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to fund a border wall would hurt the Texas economy,” Wallace said. “This proposal could mean a loss of jobs and a hit to state tax revenues.”

But maybe, if the thinking of Texas musician Rich O’Toole is on target, nobody’s going to have to worry about the construction of a border wall between Texas and Mexico.

“How in the world could they build a wall between Texas and Mexico,” O’Toole tweeted. “In 15 years they still haven’t finished I-35 between Austin and Waco.”