Hidalgo County wants to cooperate with and perhaps co-opt plans to build a new border wall.
County Judge Ramon Garcia doesn’t want the federal government to build the wall.
“It’s a bad idea,” Garcia said. “It’s money that’s not going to be well spent by our country.”
President Donald J. Trump, though, campaigned on building a wall between the United States and Mexico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently took steps to start the process, which will cost billions.
“If Congress is dead-set on building a wall, then we need to refer to the Border Infrastructure Improvement Act,” Garcia said.
With backing from the Hidalgo County Drainage District board, Garcia signed a letter Tuesday to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who heads the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The letter thanks the federal government for cooperating with Hidalgo County nearly 10 years ago, when they struck a compromise called the Hidalgo County Border Infrastructure Improvement Program.
“To date, the ‘Border Levee Strengthening & Security Infrastructure Project”, that resulted from the above referenced program, has served a dual purpose in providing over 20 miles of much needed flood protection against waters from the Rio Grande River, while at the same time providing border security to our great nation,” according to the letter, which references a map of the existing border fence-levee.
The letter suggests Hidalgo County and the federal government complete the project, building 30 miles of new border fence-levee.
“We want to be ahead of it,” said Drainage District General Manager Raul Sesin. “We want to be able to manage our project and be able to partner, again, with the federal government, like we did back in 2008.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he supports the border fence-levee project.
“The additional 30 miles of wall would be part of the levee system that would serve a flood control purpose at the same time helping Border Patrol secure the border,” Cruz said. “And I think that is a very promising project going forward.”
Building the new border fence-levee would create 5,000 jobs and have a $500 million economic impact, according to the letter. Hidalgo County and the federal government would share the construction cost.
The project would leave Hidalgo County with 50 miles of border fence-levee along the river.
“Which they can call a wall,” Garcia said. “I think that would be a good way of spending these tax dollars that we shouldn’t have to be spending in the first place.”