July 22, 2007
Texas portion of border fence construction to begin next year

Despite earlier reports about construction beginning by September, the Texas portion of the border fence will not get underway until 2008.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle this week, said he expects some work to begin in Texas before the 2007 fiscal year ends Sept. 30. But department officials have encountered stiff opposition from towns and cities along the border and don't plan to begin the Texas segment until 2008.

The Army Corps of Engineers, working under the supervision of Homeland Security, plans to complete 70 miles of fencing this fiscal year in New Mexico, Arizona and California, department spokeswoman Laura Keehner said Friday. An additional 225 miles, including 153 miles in Texas, would be erected in 2008 under current plans, Keehner said.

The Texas portion has been embroiled in angry protests by local leaders and property owners, who say the fencing would create economic, cultural and environmental chaos along the Rio Grande, which separates Texas from Mexico.

"There is no place where we are initiating construction without an agreement of the local landowner," Keehner said.

Keehner said Homeland Security officials have been in contact with "Texas landowners who are willing to move forward on the construction process." But border-city mayors Chad Foster of Eagle Pass and Raul G. Salinas of Laredo said Friday that they are unaware of any agreements that would clear the way for construction.

"The mayors along the border in Texas, Democrats and Republican, are in agreement that we don't need a fence," Salinas said. "When all the mayors along the border are in agreement, that really says something."

It's a pretty good bet that this is more BS from Homeland Security. It's certainly possible that there are "Texas landowners who are willing to move forward on the construction process", but it's mighty convenient of DHS to claim such people exist when no local officials are aware of them. I would take anything they say here very skeptically.

Which brings me back to the question I raised previously: What, if anything, will John Cornyn do if DHS proceeds without local input? He's on record saying he'll fight such a situation, but he hasn't said how far he'll go. Will Cornyn follow up his words with actions, or is this all just so much hot air?

We also have to consider what "local input" actually means.

[Local officials] expressed outrage on newly released reports by Secretary Michael Chertoff that he would talk to local communities on the fence design, but would give them no veto power.

"Well then what the heck are they going to talk to us about? Are they going to ask us what color do we want the fence. Do we want brick and mortar," said Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos, who met with federal lawmakers last week to discuss the issue.

Will Chertoff come away saying "Well, we talked to these people, and we told them what we were going to do. What more do you want?" And if he does, will Cornyn accept that? Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 22, 2007 to National news

Thanks for the ongoing and excellent coverage of the border fence, Kuff. Your skepticism about landowner cooperations is quite warranted. The City of Laredo is the #1 owner of riverfront property in Laredo, and they will absolutely not cooperate. I personally know quite a few other major riverfront landowners who will also not cooperate with the feds on the fence. There may be an isolated rancher/farmer that will allow the fence to be built, but at this point it is clear that the feds will have to use eminent domain to build the vast majority of the fence in Texas. That will be VERY problematic...I wonder how political conservatives will react? The opportunity seems to be there for some interesting, maybe even groundbreaking, political partnerships.

On Cornyn, it is difficult to predict what he will do. He always gives soothing speeches to South Texas audiences, but his voting record is 100% pro-fence...and votes talk, BS walks. Since both his potential opponents have already come out against the fence, it would make sense for him to do the same and try to appeal to more moderate voters who will be deciding the 2008 general election. If he were to make a strong statement against the fence...saying he regreted voting for the fence, for example, this would have an impact on the national debate. Whatever happens, Cornyn needs to feel the heat on this issue, since it is exclusively federal and will impact Texas in so many ways.

Posted by: el_longhorn on July 23, 2007 2:13 PM