Texas Mayors Oppose Plan for Border Fence

Mayors of some Texas border cities are taking a stand against the federal government's plans to build hundreds of miles of wall and fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security says the barrier is needed to stem illegal immigration from Mexico. But the Texas mayors are refusing to allow the fence to be built on their cities' property.

Hector and Enrique Mendiola are two brothers who grew up in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass.

The two regularly go fishing in the Rio Grande River, which makes up about 12 hundred miles of border between Texas and Mexico.

On a recent afternoon, they launched their small fishing boat not far from the international bridge that connects Eagle Pass to its Mexican sister city, Piedras Negras. About three times a week, they pull out big, flathead catfish. Once they hooked a 44-pounder.

The Mendiola brothers said the Border Patrol agents check on them once in a while, but there is never a problem.

But the brothers said they do have a problem with the border fence.

"We're against it, let's put it that way," one said. "I think, we don't need no walls here."

They are not the only ones who feel that way.

Eagle Pass Opposes Fence

The Eagle Pass City Council passed a resolution against the border fence and is refusing to allow the federal government to build the wall on river-front city property, which is used as a public park and municipal golf course.

Mayor Chad Foster does not want the 16-foot tall fence, but he does want other parts of the federal government's border barrier plan — stadium lighting and a paved road that would run along the river.

"There will be 15 light towers that will illuminate this park and the municipal golf course at night," Foster said. "And there'll be a road that will basically follow this dirt road carry it along this edge of the river and with that in place we feel the Border Patrol will be more than capable of patrolling the river."

Foster is also chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, which is made up of elected officials in communities along the border. He said they face issues that you will find only in Texas. Arizona, California and New Mexico do not have a river defining the nation's boundary, and those states have not faced the same level of opposition seen in Texas.

"We know where our border is because my feet get wet when I get close to the mid point of the Rio Grande. Texas is unique. One size does not fit all," Foster said.

Brownsville Refuses Land Access

Down stream on the Rio Grande, Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas also opposes the border fence.

"I think when you build a wall, it's a wall of shame," Salinas said.

The Laredo City Council voted unanimously to oppose the border fence, but Salinas said he is not sure if the city can stop the Department of Homeland Security.

At the very eastern edge of the Texas Mexico border, the city of Brownsville is adopting an even harder stance against the border fence.

Mayor Patricio Ahumada is refusing border fence survey crews access to city property and has threatened to seek an injunction to stop the border fence.

"Why try to force [on] us your way of thinking when you don't even live here," he said. "It's not affecting you. And, if you're so worried about whatever you're worried about, why not build a fence around your state."

Ahumada said his stance on the fence does not mean he is in favor of illegal immigration. He is all for improved border security, but he just wants to make sure that he and other border mayors have a say in what gets built on the Texas border.

David Martin reports from Texas Public Radio.

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