Wall of Shame

Local landowners and politicians say they are being ignored by officials in Washington with regards to the proposed construction of a border fence – again.Tuesday, the White House announced President Bush was threatening to veto a House homeland security bill that mandated considering local input on the construction of the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Associated Press, the administration said the mandate for local input would “serve as an impediment to gaining control of the border.”
Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas considered the proposed veto a disgrace.

“Unbelievable,” he said. “In other words, we don’t have a vote on the border?”

Salinas added that not only is the path of neglect being traveled by Washington a detriment to the democratic way of life, but the entire fence proposal is equal to a dishonor.

“The wall of shame is exactly what they want to build,” he said. “I invite every member of the Senate that has never been to Laredo, Texas, to come and see us.”

Joseph Hein, a local schoolteacher who sits on the Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee and owns a 580-acre ranch that sits on the banks of the river, said Washington policymakers are trying to regulate a part of the country they have little knowledge about.

“The best way (to put it) is, if you were to give me the opportunity to make decisions for New York, or Wyoming,” he said. “Unless you’re really there and you know what’s going on, you’re making decisions without having factual knowledge of the area.”

Hein said Washington is under the impression that people opposed to the fence are against secure borders, which is inaccurate. He said that instead, more technology and manpower, what the government has dubbed a “virtual fence,” is the answer. He also said he felt the fence proposal is financially motivated more than it is a means of security.

“Any fence you put up in the area is going to need repair,” he said. “Whoever gets the contact is going to get super-rich.”

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, an advocate for the consideration of local input, has not been swayed by the length of the debate.

“We should not have Washington telling us how to deal with border security,” he said Thursday.

In a letter sent last month to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Cuellar suggested that the addition of specific language to the committee’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The letter states the language “speaks to the importance of maximizing cost-effectiveness, local consultation, minimizing intrusion on local communities, as well as consideration of terrain and existing natural barriers.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who voted for the fence’s construction last year, said he was disappointed by Bush’s statements.

“In Washington, people tend to view things as a one-size-fits-all and to look at local and state participation as interference,” he said. “I don’t feel that way at all.” The senator also said that the difference in terrain among various border states needs to be considered by the Bush administration because Texas, Arizona and California are very different.

Cuellar said the senator’s comments indicate the that the border fence is not a straight-party issue, although he did say Republicans have authored four amendments that seek to strike out any language mandating local consultation.