South Texas border mayors and economic leaders expressed anger and disappointment Monday after learning new details of the location of 153 miles of controversial fencing in and around border cities -- including some downtown areas.
''I am totally disappointed," said Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, who heard Sunday night that 19 miles of fencing in his city would begin downtown. ''I remain steadfast in opposition to the building of a fence."
''It is absolute idiocy," said McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, who contends that illegal immigration can only be stemmed with a guest worker program. "A fence by itself is only going to delay people from crossing."
Cortez and other South Texas officials said U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials vowed to consult with them about locating the fencing projects.
South Texas border leaders learned some of the details of the proposed fence last Friday, at a meeting where Valley officials circulated a confidential April 20, 2007, memo from the DHS outlining the location of 370 miles of a primary ''pedestrian fence" to be completed by 2008.
The memo included a map that indicated fencing projects in Presidio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, Roma, Rio Grande City, Los Ebanos, Hidalgo, and Progreso.
The memo explained that DHS officials have already ''designated the locations along the southwest border where it is operationally necessary to construct pedestrian fence."
But Cortez, as did other border officials, said they had been previously assured by DHS officials they would be consulted about the fence's location.
Their first concrete details emerged in the last two weeks, they say, when landowners in Hidalgo and Starr counties reported that U.S. Border Patrol agents showed them maps outlining parcels of private property on the Rio Grande the government plans to fence.
"We were told by the secretary of DHS they would be consulting with us before the fence went up, and it has not happened," said Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.