Laredo Mayor Opposes Mexico Border Fence
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Even as the fate of the immigration bill is in doubt, efforts to cut off access for illegal immigrants are already well underway along the Mexican border.
Yesterday we heard from the mayor of Yuma, Arizona. He said a border fence in his city has helped reduce the flow of illegal immigrants.
INSKEEP: But leaders of some border towns in south Texas are protesting a proposal for a similar fence. They've been expecting a virtual fence - surveillance cameras and extra border policing. Then a new federal map appeared that showed plans for an actual fence.
Local officials are concerned that such a fence would limit access to the Rio Grande River, not just for illegal border crossers but for farmers who need the water, even for birds and endangered species.
MONTAGNE: Joining us is Mayor Raul Salinas of Laredo, who happens to be in California this week for a conference. Good morning and thanks for joining us.
Mayor RAUL SALINAS (Laredo, Texas): Good morning, Renee. Nice being with you.
MONTAGNE: Now, for those who aren't familiar with your part of the country, what does the border look like from your town?
Mayor SALINAS: Laredo and northern Laredo is separated by a border, not really separated but joined by a border - northern Laredo on the southern part and Laredo, Texas on the northern part. We have 12,000 trucks crossing each way every day of the week and it's booming. There's a lot of commerce, there's a lot of trade, there's a lot of friendship. It's a city that's united by a border, not divided.
MONTAGNE: And so besides the businesses, you're really talking about shopping across the border?
Mayor SALINAS: You're talking about families. You're talking about, you know, whatever affects Laredo affects northern Laredo and vice versa. It's a great relationship. I mean, it's families. So this proposed wall is not needed because I feel that we're going to squander the taxpayers' money. We have already a natural barrier, which is the Rio Grande. There are certain water treaties that are going to be affected. You're talking about agriculture. There's so many issues.
MONTAGNE: I understand that mayors in other towns and cities near you along the border have similar concerns.
Mayor SALINAS: Well, I can tell you this: the Texas border mayors are united. I'm talking about both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats, united against this wall. That ought to say something.
MONTAGNE: The mayors from the...
Mayor SALINAS: Yes.
MONTAGNE: Do you have illegal immigrants coming across that border as you have it now? It sounds like you must, just in a simple...
Mayor SALINAS: Well, there's a - yes, of course, there are. But the wall is not going to do it. You build a wall, they'll build a tunnel. They'll build ladders. You know, I'm going to go into the ladder business, Renee. I am not proposing nor am I advocating illegal immigration by no means. But there's other ways we can do it. The wall simply is not going to work.
Mayor SALINAS: You know, one of those answers...
MONTAGNE: Although, just quickly, the border hasn't been, you know, that the Rio Grande hasn't been a great, as it turns out, barrier, nor have these border patrols been able to sort of control the borders, so what...
Mayor SALINAS: Well, they're catching the people along the border. Okay. What we want to do, we have a proposal that's called a Rio Rivego(ph) where we're going to make the river deeper, wider, and use the sensors more effectively. You know, there's a lot of brush - there's a lot of stuff that needs to be cleaned out. That'll give the border patrol better visibility, a better ability to control that. But on the other side, what is Mexico doing about the immigration?
MONTAGNE: Let me put this to you, we spoke with the mayor of Yuma, Arizona yesterday, where they already have a big, solid fence, and he loves it. He says it has helped cut the flow of illegal immigrants by nearly 70 percent over the last year. Now, that is a farming and construction area.
Mayor SALINAS: Right.
MONTAGNE: That's what they do. They rely, he says, on legal immigrants who commute every day across the border. Why couldn't something like that work in Laredo?
Mayor SALINAS: Well, I think it could work, but, you know, you cannot compare Laredo to Yuma. Those are two different areas. The mayor understands his area. I understand my area, and what my constituents are saying and what we feel - you do not turn your back on your friends, on your neighbors, and...
MONTAGNE: And also, those across the...
Mayor SALINAS: Right. And...
MONTAGNE: ...Rio Grande are your friends and neighbors.
Mayor SALINAS: Yes. Yes. I mean, if were asking Mexico to help us on the terrorist front and then you slam the door on them, do you think they're going to be willing to cooperate? Let's get realistic. It's time to make friends with people.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Mayor SALINAS: Thank you very much, Renee. Have a good day.
MONTAGNE: Raul Salinas is the mayor of Laredo, Texas.
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