Increased wait times at Texas’ ports of entry could cost the state more than $32 billion in gross domestic product in just over three months, according to a report released Thursday.
The report, conducted by the Waco-based Perryman Group, says that the border region alone could take a hit of nearly $2 billion, while the state could lose about 292,000 jobs over the next year as a result of the federal government’s decision to divert customs officers from the state’s international bridges to help the U.S. Border Patrol handle a surge of migrants.
“As a major exporting and importing state with an extended southern border, Texas is particularly hard hit by the border slowdown. In fact, the state is responsible for about 35% of all trade with Mexico,” the report states. The study was commissioned by IBC Bank in conjunction with the Texas Association of Business, Texas Border Coalition, Texas Business Leadership Council and the Border Trade Alliance.
Thethe economic losses laid out in the study would represent the loss of one-third of the country’s total trade trade with Mexico over a three-month period.
The slowdown in the international bridges began in late March after former Customs and Border Protection commissioner and current interim Department of Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the agency was diverting 750 customs officials from Tucson, Laredo, El Paso and San Diego to help U.S. Border Patrol agents process the record numbers of immigrant families who are crossing the border to seek asylum.
Ray Perryman, the president and CEO of the Perryman Group, said the study assumed an average increased wait time of 30 percent at Texas ports of entry — a figure that came a survey of industry professionals.
Nationwide, the study predicts about $69 billion in gross domestic product could be lost, with manufacturing, transportation and utilities and the wholesale trade industries taking the biggest hits. Perryman said any delays at the border can affect businesses in every corner of the country.
“For example, Michigan is a long way away [from the border]but they make a lot of things in Michigan with goods that flow back and forth on the border.”
Many industries also use “just-in-time” practices, ordering goods as needed to avoid storage or inventory costs Perryman said. Companies that use that model are also going to be affected if they don’t have the necessary inventory already on hand.
The study was released just after reports that Mexico surpassed Canada and China to become the United State’s biggest trade partner during the first two months of 2019.
Two-way trade with Mexico was about $97.4 billion through February, according to WorldCity, a Florida-based company that tracks trade data using U.S. Census information. Trade with Canada and China stood at $92.4 billion and $90.4 billion, respectively.
El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley are less than two weeks away from the scheduled opening of temporary detention centers that will each house up to 500 migrants who have crossed the border to seek asylum.
The facilities, commonly referred to as a “tent cities,” are the federal government’s response to the ongoing crush of migrants, mainly from Central America, who continue to cross into Texas after traveling through Mexico.
“U.S. Customs & Border Protection urgently needs to provide for additional shelter capacity to accommodate individuals in CBP’s custody throughout the southwest border,” CBP said in a written statement. “The overwhelming number of individuals arriving daily to the U.S. has created an immediate need for additional processing space in El Paso, Texas and Donna, Texas.”
On Thursday, a U.S. Border Patrol official who asked not to be named said the facility would likely be at the agency’s station in northeast El Paso near U.S. Highway 54. Bulldozers and tractors with flattening rollers could be seen Thursday at the site, which also included five small, military-style tents used to house migrants. The CBP office in El Paso would not confirm that the station would be the location of the new facility.
The federal government’s solicitation for vendors names Deployed Resources of Rome, New York, as the company the government is in negotiations with to supply kitchen equipment, showers, laundries, bathrooms and office space. The solicitation says the government only plans to negotiate with one company “because the facilities need to be established by April 30, 2019.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the contract.
The two facilities will cost about $37.2 million through the end of the year, according to federal documents.
The opening of the new facilities would come just more than three months after the Trump administration shut down a similar facility in nearby Tornillo, about 20 miles east of the El Paso city limits. That facility was erected in June and housed hundreds of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border to seek asylum.
Temporary facilities have been used for years to house undocumented immigrants when U.S. Border Patrol facilities are beyond their capacity to shelter migrants. The Obama administration opened a temporary facility at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force base in 2014 in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border. And in 2016, a facility opened at the Tornillo site in response to another surge of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border, the El Paso Times reported.
On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese sent out a call for volunteers and donations for the Diocesan Migrant Center located at the Diocese of El Paso’s Catholic Pastoral Center.
The migrant center is currently seeing between 80-100 migrant refugees daily. Once refugees arrive at the facility, they are given a change of clothes, the ability to shower, 3 meals a day, and a care package of snacks and necessary needs for travel to their destination.
Volunteers assist in the caring for the migrant refugees on site and with rides to the airport or the bus station. The diocese is also looking for volunteers to assist in providing meals to refugees.
Volunteers can send name, number and times available to volunteer to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Ofﬁce of the Chancery at 915-872-8407.
In addition to the need for on site volunteers, the diocese is also in need of donations.
Goods Needed for Donation
FOOD ITEMS Bottled Water Drinks (that are easy to distribute)-Capri Sun, Juice box Granola Bar Fruit Cereal and Milk Small packaged snacks (Cookies, crackers, trail mix, chips) Sliced bread Peanut Butter and Jelly Instant Tea or Lemonade Mix
KITCHEN ITEMS 8 oz. cups Forks Knives Spoons 9 inch plates Small bowls Napkins Large roll aluminum Foil Sandwich size Ziploc bags Quarter gallon Ziploc bags One gallon Ziploc bags
MISCELLANEOUS Car Seats Linen (Twin sheets, pillows, pillow cases and blankets) Towels
CLOTHING Brand new Underwear, for Men, Women and Children (Mostly small and medium size needed) Brand New pairs of socks, for Men, Women and Children Tennis Shoes (from 2-year-old to adults) Jeans (Denim) for Men, Women and Children Blouses Shirts for Men Coats Sweaters Gloves Beanies
Cleaning Supplies Clorox Wipes Clorox Pinesol Dish Soap Laundry Detergent Fabuloso or floor cleaner Lyson Spray Gloves for Handling Food
I have devoted the entirety of my adult life to keeping Americans safe. For nearly a decade, I served as an undercover officer in the CIA during the Global War on Terror.
My job was to stop bad people from doing bad things in our homeland.
Since being in Congress, I’ve made border security one of my top priorities. In fact, the very first bill I had signed into law prevented significant pay cuts for our Border Patrol Agents. I have also fought to increase funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency responsible for protecting our borders.
Over the last four years, I’ve voted for $220 billion in funding to help provide more resources to the Department. Through my work, the House has passed funding for a diverse arsenal of tools to protect the southern border such as:
$8 billion for border infrastructure, which includes physical barriers and associated technology;
$18.7 billion for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement personnel;
$1 billion in improvements at our Ports of Entry; and,
$270 million in the last 2 years for the use of technology to detect border crossings.
What is happening at our border is a significant problem – 400,000 people attempted to come into our country illegally last year and over $67 billion worth of illegal drugs flowed into our communities. It’s 2019 and we still don’t have operational control of our border. When I say operational control I mean we should know everything that is coming back and forth across our border. We haven’t been able to achieve this ability because we haven’t been pursuing a strategy of focusing on all 2,000 miles of our border at the same time. We currently have 654 miles of physical barriers and Congress has funded the construction of 88 more miles.
Even the President emphasized that “We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea.” Because every mile of our border is different, requiring a different approach that accounts for the unique geographic, cultural and technological conditions along our border.
We need to be using all of our available resources, including: physical barriers in densely-populated areas, technology so we can track threats until the brave men and women of border patrol can conduct an arrest, and we need more men and women in Border Patrol.
As your Representative, and the Representative of over 820 miles of our U.S.-Mexico border, I have consistently supported bills and worked with my colleagues and folks back home to develop initiatives that keep you safe.
Border Security is critical to our national security, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the safety of communities in South and West Texas.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness, and the House Committee on Appropriations, where he serves on the Subcommittees on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
As stories and coverage of border security have dominated the media landscape lately; pundits, politicians and the public alike are all seemingly divided over the proposals.
Regardless of the media outlet, debate over the the proposed wall or – more specifically – the of financing and placement for the border wall, is inescapable.
Although the government has temporarily reopened after a 35-day-shutdown—the longest in history—over lack of funding for this barrier. With no monies granted as requested by the President for this “new” border security measure, there is a side to this story that many do not know.
As reported by our partners at the Texas Tribune, the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill was initially slated for veto by the President for failure to meet the amount he requested. However, after the government reopened on Friday, President Trump gave the go-ahead on the Bill that allocated $1 billion total for construction of new sections, and repairs of existing parts of the border wall.
According to Lorri Burnette, CEO of We are the Wall, some of that money has already been allocated for the wall in the Mission, Texas area. Lorri, a native El Pasoan, for an interview on Saturday evening. That audio is available above.
She had been down in the Rio Grande Valley region since December, on a 3 month contract with the Defenders of Wildlife.
Returning to the Sun City specifically to attend Veronica Escobar’s Town Hall with the hopes of getting answers from legislators, she also joined up with Border Network for Human Rights in their march against the border wall that was held here in El Paso on Saturday afternoon.
What Lorri wants everyone to understand is that the wall construction is slated to run through land that belongs to the National Butterfly Center, Bensten-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the Historic La Lomita Mission, as well as the Jackson Family Cemetery that dates back to a time before the Civil War.
“The border between Mexico and the United States runs right through the center of the river,” says Lorri, “But the wall needs to be straight.” In order to accomplish this, the government has decided that it will begin wall construction two miles north of the river, on American soil. This grants the rest of the land, extending from the wall to the river, itself, to no one, making it a veritable “No-Man’s Land.”
How will this specifically affect those properties?
The wall will run through the 100 acres of the Butterfly Center, dividing it into two separate areas. The first 30 acres will remain on the United States side of the wall, and the remaining 70 acres will now be on the other side.
In order to continue to access the entirety of this Center, the wall will have gates that will be accessible via key code. A visitor to the Center needs only to go in and sign a paper, pay $5, and the code is given to them with no further check into their identity or citizenship status.
The same code is then used to return to the American side of the barrier. Of course, to many people, this not only seems an odd use of funding, but may also prove less secure than the Border Patrol boats, helicopters, and trucks that already constantly survey and secure the river.
For the Bensten-Rio Grande Valley State Park, things are about to change. This includes land that is used by the Girl and Boy Scout troops for camping and earning badges. The land will now end right behind the main office building of the site, with the remainder of the Park sitting in “No-Man’s Land.”
La Lomita Mission is due to be completely demolished. Built in 1889, La Lomita Chapel is named for the hillock upon which is was built. Originally, this mission served as a home base to the Oblate Missionaries that rode horseback through the Rio Grande Valley in the mid-1800s, and is the cornerstone of Mission, Texas.
Today, the chapel stands as a religious shrine and a reminder of the region’s past.
Paul Navarro, Senior Representative for Texas with the Defenders of Wildlife, was able to later verify what many are alleging: the government has bypassed or ignored laws set in place regarding construction and eminent domain.
According to Paul, studies of an area’s ecology and historical significance need to be done prior to the start of construction of any government project.
Paul alleges that no such studies have yet been done.
This leaves protected species, like the Ocelot, with no way to reach higher ground during times of massive flooding that happen during heavy monsoon months because of the new barrier. With some town’s location right next to the river, a border wall could potentially cause the runoff from yearly storms to back up into those towns, causing flooding and potential massive damage to homes and businesses.
Local residents and others say that another fact that hasn’t been taken into consideration is the land as Native America burial grounds.
If work begins in a particular area known to have once been inhabited by Native Americans and bones are found, digging is supposed to cease until it can be determined if those bones are that of Native Americans.
At that point, the bones must be carefully excavated and presented to the First Nations for proper relocation onto Native Lands.
Because these lands are considered sacred by the Native Americans, especially since bones have indeed been found, they believe many of their ancestors are buried in the Jackson Family Cemetery that is also scheduled for demolition.
In order to try to defend and protect the environment – as well as the sacred lands – the Carrizo-Comecrudo tribe of Texas, among other Native Nations, have joined in to do all they can to stop this destruction.
Currently, many other First Nations tribesmen and women are on their way from Tucson, Arizona. They will join with those already in the Rio Grande Valley at a camp that is being set up on land owned by the Jackson family, near the cemetery.
According to Lorri, many tribes from the Dakota Pipeline protest are due to arrive, as well.
“It’s history in the making, and no one is reporting about it,” she says. Between 28-30 tribes are due to arrive in the next week or so, perhaps more.
Retired Army Veteran Sam Williams, Chairman of the El Paso Grassroots Coalition and Independent Candidate for the 16th Congressional District, has stated that he doesn’t understand why the government wants to build a wall in an area that already has a natural barrier.
Sam explains other ways he intends to help, “The El Paso Grassroots Coalition, in conjunction with the Defenders of Wildlife, propose to file an injunction in Federal Court to stop all construction activities until studies of the historical and ecological impact can be done.”
He is currently in touch with Paul Navarro to do just that.
All of this brings to mind places within driving distance to the Borderland.
An entire area that holds both cultural and historical value – Native American village sites, natural habitats spanning the rio and the Chihuahuan Desert as well, and countless other sites as yet unknown.
A quick drive eastward to Fort Hancock, where the river alone marks the border, through near-identical farms and small towns on both sides of the river.
The same goes for locations west of El Paso, from Mount Cristo Rey all the way to Columbus and beyond; areas that have had literally decades of unfettered access – and security – all under threat of division, destruction and disappearance due to ‘the wall.’
This is why so many are making the journey to the Rio Grande Valley area near Mission: to have their voices heard, and to increase the volume of voices already there.
Author – Amy Cooley | El Paso Herald Post | Photos: Lorri Burnette
Here in South and West Texas, border security is not an abstract issue. Every week meeting with folks across 29 counties of the 23rd District of Texas, securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system are frequent topics of conversation.
That’s because the border is our backyard, and what happens on the border impacts the daily lives of families across TX-23 communities.
Spending nearly a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA chasing bad guys, I learned to look at problems from every angle. My mindset is no different when it comes to finding a way to finally gain operational control of our southern border.
I represent more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress, and I have seen firsthand that each mile of the border faces unique geographical, technological and cultural challenges that must be addressed using every tool at our disposal.
Physical barriers are one of these tools and work well in urban areas. However, in other areas, a combination of cutting edge sensors and surveillance technology is a more efficient use of resources.
These smart technologies would allow our most important border security resources, the men and women of Border Patrol, to identify illegal border crossings and deploy resources where they are needed. We also must respect the private property rights of landowners on the border, which would be threatened by eminent domain while building a physical barrier.
Gaining operational control of all 2,000 miles of our southern border will require a mile-by-mile approach that empowers Border Patrol to accomplish their goals using the best technology available.
Additionally, to secure our border long-term, we must address the root causes of mass migration.
Between 2012 and 2017, Border Patrol apprehensions on our southern border from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras nearly doubled due to rampant crime, violence and poverty. The challenges along our Southern border will only continue unless we actively work with Mexico and our allies in Central America to find shared solutions to combat human trafficking, drug smuggling and illegal immigration.
That’s why I visited the region last year to meet with Central American leaders understand root causes and the situation in these communities. We must identify shared solutions with our regional partners, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to support these solutions in Congress.
My colleagues have a lot of opinions about how we should secure our border, but no one knows more about the border than my bosses – the nearly 800,000 people I represent in TX-23. The border is our backyard.
These are lessons I have learned by proactively listening to the concerns of constituents, local law enforcement, landowners and Border Patrol. Until we get it right, I will continue to fight for and carry this message to my colleagues in Congress.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
WASHINGTON – On Thursday on the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the migrant crisis at our Southern border. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found above.
“Coming from Texas, with a 1,200 mile common border with Mexico, caravans are not unheard of. In fact, we have many caravans showing up on a daily basis at border patrol stations: unaccompanied children, families. What has happened is that the cartels – these transnational criminal organizations that have figured out as part of their business model that they can make money by shipping migrants up through Mexico into the United States, or ship drugs up from Mexico into the United States, or traffic in children and women for sex slavery – they figured out they can make money because of the gaps in our border security, because of the characteristics of our law that make it impossible for us to deter many of the immigrants coming from Central America.”
“This is a phenomenon that has been occurring on a daily basis for the foreseeable past, and it’s because of a glitch in our laws that our Democratic colleagues are well aware of, that we’ve tried to fix. But they simply will not cooperate with us in order to fix them.”
“About 40 percent of my constituents in Texas are of a Hispanic origin, many of whom live along that international border, who understand that the cartels that traffic in people, and drugs, and contraband are criminal organizations that threaten their security and safety. So I feel very strongly about this issue.”
“We can’t forget that our border communities are critically important, and any solution we find must somehow balance our normal compassion for people who are vulnerable and people who are seeking a better life, balancing that compassion with the rule of law and our ability to protect our own sovereignty by securing our borders and controlling illegal immigration into the United States.”
“In the coming weeks, I hope we can work with the Administration to determine a course of action that addresses the real needs of legitimate asylum seekers without rewarding illegal activity.”
“We need to send a message that the United States alone cannot bear the burden of this mass migration, and we need to ensure that those who seek to enter the United States do so legally.”
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.
Customs and Border Protection Officers scheduled a ‘crowd control exercise’ at the U.S. – Mexico Border in Chihuahuita and then abruptly canceled the event without explanation on Election Day.
Border Patrol officers with the public affairs office were sent to notify the media, which had gathered at the meeting point on Calleros Court and Santa Fe Street early Tuesday morning. The event was scheduled last minute by CBP Monday evening stating that the crowd control exercise would begin at the railroad crossing west of the Paso Del Norte Bridge at 10 a.m. on Election Day.
The area where the demonstration was slated to be held is in the heart of the Chihuahuita neighborhood in South El Paso. The neighborhood is a historically poor, Hispanic community that winds along the Rio Grande River.
Residents of the neighborhood are assigned to vote at the Armijo Recreation Center, 700 East 7th Street, about a mile to the east of the demonstration. If residents were to walk to the polls, they would have to walk through the area of the CBP exercise.
Many voting rights advocacy groups including ACLU Texas and MALDEF raised immediate concerns that the exercise may have been purposefully scheduled for election day in an effort to intimidate and suppress voters from going to the polls.
Prior to official cancellation, armored units, horseback riders and other mobile units were driving on the street near Calleros Court.
After moving to a secured area behind the railroad tracks, Border Patrol officers emerged to notify the small gaggle of waiting reporters that the event was called off.
When directly asked by the Herald Post why the exercise was canceled at the last minute, public affairs officers said they were not given a reason. When pressed as to whether the pushback regarding the event falling on election day resulted in the last minute cancellation, he indicated it could be a fair assumption.
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Co. – The Department of Homeland Security has requested the Department of Defense to provide a range of assistance, including planning, engineering, transportation, logistics and medical support to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to officials, this request for assistance will “enhance CBP’s ability to impede or deny illegal crossings and maintain situational awareness as it contributes to CBP’s overall border security mission.”
DOD forces in support of the DHS and CBP are under the command of U.S. Northern Command. The DHS support operations has been designated Operation Faithful Patriot.
The Secretary of Defense approved the following Title 10 (active-duty) forces and support in response to the DHS request.
• Military planning teams to coordinate operations, engineering, medical, and logistic support
• Helicopter companies to support the movement of CBP tactical personnel
• Engineer battalions to erect temporary vehicle barriers and fencing
• Deployable medical units to triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients
• Temporary housing to support CBP and military personnel
• Light towers, barrier material, barbed and concertina wire, as well as cases of meals ready-to-eat
The following locations have been identified to serve as Base Support Installations (BSI). BSIs are DOD installations located near the operation area and serve as primary logistics hubs, during a response to a request for Defense Support to Civil Authorities.
Bases may be added or subtracted as operational planning continues.
• Arizona: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca
• California: Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Naval Air Facility El Centro, Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base San Diego, Naval Base Point Loma
• Texas: Fort Bliss, Joint Base San Antonio, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Naval Operations Support Center Harlingen, Naval Air Station Kingsville,
The following military units have been identified to deploy to the southwest border in support of CBP.
The number of troops deployed will change each day as military forces flow into the operating area, but the initial estimate is that the DOD will have more than 7,000 troops supporting DHS across California, Arizona and Texas.
• Fort Bragg, North Carolina
o Headquarters & Headquarters Command, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command
o 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division
o Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade
o 51st Medical Company, 28th Combat Support Hospital
o 172nd Preventive Medicine
o 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion
o 329th Movement Control Team
o 403rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company
o Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 503rd Military Police Battalion
• Fort Carson, Colorado
o Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
o Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
• Peterson Air Force, Colorado
o Joint Enabling Capability Team and Aviation Planner from U.S. Northern Command
• Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
o Joint Public Support Element – Public Affairs
• Fort Meade, Maryland
o 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)
• Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia
o 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Infantry Division
o 90th Human Resources Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade
• Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas
o Defense Logistics Agency Contingency Contracting Team
o 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Assessment Team
o Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 505th Military Intelligence Brigade
• Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
o 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, I Corps
o 87th Engineer Sapper Company, 555th Engineer Brigade
• Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina
o 1st Combat Camera Squadron
• Fort Bliss, Texas
o 24th Press Camp Headquarters, 1st Armored Division
• Fort Hood, Texas
o 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps
o Headquarters, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
o 937th Engineer Sapper Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
o 104th Engineer Construction, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
o 289th Quartermaster Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade
• Fort Knox, Kentucky
o Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade
o 15th Engineer Company (Horizontal), 19th Engineer Battalion
o 541st Engineer Sapper Company, 19th Engineer Battalion
• Fort Campbell, Kentucky
o 887th Engineer Support Company, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
o 372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
o 74th Transportation Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
• Fort Riley, Kansas
o Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
o 977th Military Police Company Combat Support
o 287th Military Police Company Combat Support
o 41st Engineer Company (Clearance), 4th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
The construction of a $22 million Border Wall in Downtown El Paso will begin on Saturday, according to Border Patrol officials.
“This new wall will be far more durable and far more effective in deterring would-be illegal entrants,” El Paso Border Patrol Sector Chief Aaron Hull said.
Funding for the project was earmarked in the 2017 Appropriations Bill as part of the President’s Executive Order 13767
Construction on the 18-foot steel bollard wall will replace current chain-link fencing that is currently in place. One mile of the steel structure will be built west of the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry and the remaining three miles will be east of the PDN Bridge and will join with an existing 12-foot steel fence that begins on near Fonseca Road along the Border Highway.
The contract for the wall’s construction was awarded to West Point Contractors of Tucson, Arizona on June 1, 2018 but was not announced to the public until September 18.
Border Patrol maintains that the area is a hotspot for illegal entry into the U.S. When asked to provide specific numbers of illegal crossings in the area, officials with the Border Patrol were unable to give specifics. Instead, they say that their experience working in the area is all the evidence needed to show the four mile stretch is at a higher susceptibility for illegal border crossings.
The construction project came as a surprise to many in the Chihuahuita community, city leaders and immigration advocates.
Border Network for Human Rights called the announcement of the construction at the last minute “unacceptable.”
Fernando Garcia with BNHR organizes a bi-annual event called “Hugs Not Walls” which unites families separated by the Border in the arroyo near the PDN Bridge. On Monday, officials with the Border Patrol contacted Garcia to inform him that a previously approved permit for October 6, was being rescinded due to the wall’s construction.
Hull said the Border Patrol will continue to work with community stakeholders in the future, but said border security is their top priority. He declined to state whether Hugs Not Walls would be able to continue at the conclusion of the wall’s construction.
The El Paso Sector Border says apprehensions in the 2018 Fiscal Year were up 61% over 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April, which was enacted in May. The policy resulted in controversial family separation and the creation of ‘tent cities’ which housed children separated from their parents.
In response to the wall’s construction, the Border Network for Human Rights and a number of community activists and elected officials joined together to announce a community action demonstration for Saturday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Cleveland Square to protest the construction project.
The demonstration is expected to move toward the Paso Del Norte Bridge.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors on the southwest border to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against anyone who enters or attempts to enter the country illegally, a mandate he said “supersedes” any prior directives.
“To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “To the Department’s prosecutors, I urge you: promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”
The directive instructs all federal prosecutors on the southwest border to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals for alleged violations of federal immigration illegal-entry laws.
In a one-page memo sent to federal prosecutors on the southwest border, Sessions said the goal wasn’t merely developing more immigration cases, but instead an end to the “illegality in [the] immigration system.” He added that if the new policy requires more resources, the offices should identify and request those to the Department of Justice.
The mandate comes the same week President Donald Trump has assailed Democrats for supporting what he said are “catch and release” policies where individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol are released while they await a court date. (The Washington Post later reported that “catch and release” actually flourished under the George W. Bush administration.)
It’s unclear what the mandate will do to the current immigration-court case backlog, which was at more than 684,000 as of February, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. That figure includes more than 105,000 cases pending in Texas courts, higher than any state but California.
The move is the latest in a busy week for the administration, which has also seen Trump sign a proclamation ordering the deployment of National Guard troops to the border until construction of his promised wall on the southwest border is complete.
President Trump on Tuesday signaled plans to escalate a crackdown on illegal immigration, announcing that the U.S. military will be sent to guard the U.S.-Mexico border and threatening foreign aid to Honduras.
For the third straight day, Trump seized on coverage of a “caravan” of 1,000 migrants, primarily from Honduras, to call for tougher immigration policies and warn of what he called “weak” border security.
But the prospect sending military personnel to the southern border, as well as cutting off foreign aid, added a new dimension to Trump’s immigration strategy that so far had centered on threats to walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement and pressuring Congress to send him funding for a border wall.
“We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” Trump said Tuesday during a meeting with the leaders of three Baltic nations. “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way, never showing up for court.”
Later at a news conference with these leaders, Trump said he would soon meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss having the U.S. military deployed to the border with Mexico.
“I think it is something we have to do,” Trump said.
Deploying troops to the border is not unprecedented. The Obama administration sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the southern border in 2010 to assist Border Patrol and immigration officials amid rising concerns about drug trafficking.
In 2014, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would dispatch as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the southern border as the country faced an influx of migrant children and families from Central America. Perry is now Trump’s energy secretary.
Trump floated the threat about foreign aid to Honduras in a tweet early Tuesday morning as he continued to complain about the “caravan” moving through Mexico.
“The caravan doesn’t irritate me, the caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States,” Trump told reporters during his meeting with the Baltic leaders.
The “caravan” — an annual event that is meant to draw attention to the refugee crisis in Central America — has spurred new calls from Trump for an immigration crackdown, particularly funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall that has eluded him. Conservative media outlets have has focused on the caravan in recent days.
“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there,” Trump tweeted shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday. “Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!”
The Mexican government took steps late Monday to break up the caravan, registering the migrants and saying that some would be asked to leave the country while others would receive humanitarian assistance. Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Monday that “under no circumstances does the government of Mexico promote irregular migration.”
Honduras received about $127.5 million in aid from the United States in fiscal 2016, according to data from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Congress is in a two-week recess.
He referred to the caravan in tweets Monday night, accusing Democrats of allowing “open borders, drugs and crime” while deriding U.S. immigration laws as an “Obama joke.”
“Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!”
Meanwhile, White House officials are preparing new proposals that they say would close “loopholes” in U.S. immigration laws. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security is pushing for the end of the “catch and release” practice, which allows undocumented immigrants who have been apprehended to be released while they await their hearings.
Trump’s new immigration threats were made in tweets early Tuesday that included another defense of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest network of local television stations in the country. Sinclair has recently faced a backlash after its news anchors were ordered to read a uniform script decrying “biased and false news” and criticizing other journalists for using their platforms to “push their own personal bias.”
“The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast,” Trump tweeted. “The ‘Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
Trump leveled another attack at CNN in a separate tweet that misspelled the name of the cable network’s head, Jeff Zucker, and charged that its journalists had to abide by an anti-Trump test.
CNN immediately pushed back: “Once again, false. The personal political beliefs of CNN’s employees are of no interest to us. Their pursuit of the truth is our only concern. Also, Jeff’s last name is spelled Z-U-C-K-E-R. Those are the facts. #FactsFirst.”
And in his fourth tweet of the morning, the president touted his ratings in recent polling from Rasmussen Reports, whose figures tend to favor Republicans, and noted that his numbers were “higher than ‘Cheatin’ Obama at the same time in his Administration.”
After flirting with the prospect of vetoing an omnibus spending bill because it fell short of funding for his proposed border wall, President Donald Trump on Friday eventually gave the go-ahead to the $1.3 trillion measure just hours before a possible government shutdown.
Though far short of the billions initially sought for the president’s “big, beautiful” wall on the country’s southern border, Trump’s signature on the bill means that some work will commence soon on one of his best-known campaign promises.
The money allotted for a barrier on the state’s southern border, more than $1 billion total, includes funding for construction of a barrier in Hidalgo and Starr counties, according to the McAllen Monitor.
During a press briefing Friday afternoon, Trump characterized the funding as a down payment on the project.
“We have a lot money coming to the border, and it will be coming over a period of time,” he said. “We funded the initial down payment of $1.6 billion. We’re going to be starting work – literally – on Monday on not only some new wall … but also fixing existing walls.”
The bill will also fund levee walls in the Rio Grande Valley to the tune of $445 million, according to Washington-based environmental group Earthjustice, and $196 million for bollard fencing in the same area. More than $400 million will go toward repairing or replacing the existing border fence that was constructed after the 2006 Secure Fence Act. Several miles of fence already exists along the Texas-Mexico border, including in Hidalgo, Cameron, Hudspeth and El Paso counties.
But the omnibus bill signed Friday also includes language that blocks construction of a barrier in the Rio Grande Valley’s Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, which U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, called a hard-fought victory.
“Keeping the border wall out of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was a top priority and the barring of border wall funds at the refuge will ensure that Texans and Texas wildlife can enjoy this habitat for years to come,” he said in a statement.
No DACA solution
The funding bill also leaves out a permanent solution for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants whose future status in this country is uncertain after Trump eliminated an Obama-era program that granted them protection from deportation. The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program affords certain undocumented immigrants a two-year work permit and protection from deportation.
In his news conference Friday, Trump didn’t mention that his administration nixed the program, which included 1240,000 Texans, last year. He instead called out Democrats for what he said was their failure to move forward on the issue.
“DACA recipients have been treated extremely badly by the Democrats. We wanted to include DACA, we wanted to have them in this bill,” he said. “The Democrats would not do it.”
Two separate federal courts have ruled that the federal government must continue accepting renewals, though new applications can’t be submitted. But U.S. House Democrats said Dreamers shouldn’t have to rely on two temporary court orders to feel confident they won’t be deported once their current status expires.
“By not including a permanent fix for Dreamers in the omnibus, the President and Republicans have prolonged this self-inflicted crisis and have left Dreamers in limbo and at the mercy of a temporary court injunction,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico, said in a statement. “We must find a permanent solution to protect hundreds of thousands of young people who contribute billions to our nation’s economy from the threat of deportation.”
During the press conference, the president made clear he wasn’t happy with Congress forcing his hand, and asked lawmakers to pass legislation that gives him line-item veto power in the future.
“I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement this week that its border enforcement strategy had resulted in a sharp decline in illegal crossings has renewed questions as to why the Trump administration wants even more agents on the southwest border.
U.S. Border Patrol agents made 310,531 apprehensions of people trying to cross into the country illegally between ports of entry during the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. And Customs and Border Protection officers recorded 216,370 “inadmissible” cases, which are defined as a person who tries to enter the country at a port of entry but is rejected, or a person seeking humanitarian protection under current laws.
That has Democrats and immigrant rights groups asking whether or not President Trump’s order to hire thousands of more agents should be reconsidered.
“These numbers show that Border Patrol agents are stopping, on average, one or two people per month along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and human rights watchdog organization. “Where’s the urgent need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on further expanding this agency?”
Through 2016, the Border Patrol had about 19,830 agents working for the agency across the country, including about 17,000 on the southern border, according to federal statistics. Both figures represent the smallest amounts for the agency since the 2008 fiscal year, when there were about 17,500 and 15,440 respectively.
Just weeks after taking office, President Trump issued an executive order calling on DHS to bolster its ranks by 15,000 agents and spread out the new hires between Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As of May, not one of the Border Patrol sectors in Texas had staffing levels up to par with what its headquarters authorized, according to a Government Accountability Report. The Rio Grande Valley had the most agents, with 3,143. But that was short of the 3,201 recommended authorized positions. The El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico, had 2,193 agents while 2,415 were recommended. And the Laredo and Del Rio sectors had 1,584 and 1,398 agents, which were also short of the sector recommendations of 1,852 and 1,642 agents, respectively.
But a July assessment by DHS’s Office of the Inspector General said CBP and ICE could not justify the need for the additional agents.
“Neither CBP nor ICE could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 agents and officers they were directed to hire,” the reports states. “CBP officials explained they had been working for 3 to 4 years already, but are still 3 to 4 more years away from implementing a process to obtain and analyze accurate operational needs and deployment data.”
On Tuesday however, the Border Patrol’s top brass said the agency was moving forward with the president’s request despite 2017’s apparentsuccess.
“We had some challenges with the infrastructure here at CBP, we weren’t prepared to hire as many of the [positions lost to attrition] that we had going into the administration,” Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello told reporters. “We’ve now been handed another mandate to hire 5,000 more agents and we need to stabilize the workforce in the office of field operations.”
The federal government’s success comes as the state of Texas has recently allotted another $800 million for state-based border enforcement, despite Trump’s promise to make border security a federal priority.
The Texas Legislature approved an initial massive boost in border-security spending by the same amount in 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott and his Republican colleagues said then it was necessary for the state to act because the Obama administration was abdicating its responsibility to secure the border. They cited a recent surge of undocumented women and children from Central America as proof.
They opted to maintain that record funding level in May, months before DHS’s report came out. Lawmakers said during the 2017 legislative session that they couldn’t predict how the Trump White House would approach border security, which they said justified another $800 million in spending.
State Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, said Tuesday’s report from DHS means that taxpayers should demand that state lawmakers be more transparent with how the monies are being spent.
Blanco has for years accused the Texas Department of Public Safety of being less than forthcoming about how the agency, which receives the bulk of the state monies tied to border security, is using that funding. But he said he doubted the state would roll back its spending even when lawmakers return to Austin for their next scheduled legislative session in 2019.
“I think there’s a rush to spend money,” he said. “I think it does well during elections. As a border lawmaker who lives literally, a few feet from the border wall and who has been questioning what we’re doing with the money, I think we need to put some metrics and some numbers in [place] in order to be smart about our state dollars and not rush to conclusions.”
Other Democrats have added that DHS’ near-record enforcement should prompt federal lawmakers to rethink efforts to appropriate billions of dollars for Trump’s promised border wall.
“The Administration can try to twist these numbers into whatever they please, but the fact remains that after unprecedented investments in border security over the last decade, the border has become harder to cross and fewer people are trying,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said in a statement. “Focusing massive, new government resources on a campaign promise would be a foolish and irresponsible exercise.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday that recent achievement’s by DHS reflect a stronger emphasis on interior enforcement and sends a message to would-be illegal crossers that the Trump administration is tough on illegal migration. He told reporters during a conference call the results mean the administration should stay the course, and said legislation he filed earlier this year would address some of the staffing concerns as well as facilitate legitimate trade and commerce at the ports of entry. The Building America’s Trust Act would punish “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t enforce federal immigration laws and fund more agents.
But he reiterated that a physical barrier isn’t a reasonable solution along the entire border despite the Trump administration’s support for such a barrier.
“I think it’s like looking through a soda straw. This is a bigger issue than just physical infrastructure,” he said. “It’s not a complete answer. We need technology, we need personnel and the right combination depends on where you are along the border.”
Read related Tribune coverage:
Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office would start accepting sworn complaints against “sanctuary” jurisdictions that prohibit local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. [Full story]
In August, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn unveiled a $15 billion border-security bill. The Building America’s Trust Act would fund parts of a wall or fence, add Border Patrol and ICE agents to current ranks, and punish “sanctuary” jurisdictions. [Full story]
More than two days after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed and another seriously wounded while on patrol in West Texas, exactly what happened to the agents is still unclear.
Agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, died Sunday after sustaining severe head and bodily injuries. His partner, who hasn’t been named, is recovering from his injuries and is in intensive care, according to federal authorities.
During a press briefing in El Paso Tuesday, Emmerson Buie Jr., the FBI’s special agent in charge of the El Paso division, said the agency is investigating the death as the result of an attack on federal officers but left the door open to other possibilities. The FBI is the agency bureau charged with investigating potential assaults on federal officers.
“There are a number of possible scenarios. However, in this instance we are going to pursue the one that is most challenging as it’s presented to us, which is a potential assault,” Buie said.
The incident set off a swarm of speculation Sunday about what might have happened to the agents, with some lawmakers immediately calling for more resources on the border. Gov. Greg Abbott announced an award of $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in what he described as an attack on the agents. And President Donald Trump tweeted that those responsible for Martinez’s death would be held accountable and renewed his call for a border wall on the southern border.
When asked if Abbott’s characterization of the incident as a “murder” and Trump’s as an “attack” was premature, Buie would only reiterate the investigation was ongoing.
“Our purpose in our investigation is to do everything in our power to identify the facts as they are presented,” he said. “Right now, again, we are investigating this matter as a potential assault on a federal officer, we’re trying to gather the facts, and if the facts support that, then we will pursue it legally.”
Buie later added that he has not briefed Trump.
Big Bend Sector Acting Chief Victor Velazquez told reporters that the condition of the other agent hadn’t changed and that he remained in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.
In addition to the state’s $20,000 reward, the FBI is offering $25,000 for any information that leads to “the resolution of the case.” Velazquez added that in addition to the numerous federal and local agencies assisting in the investigation, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has also lent its help by supplying bloodhounds. He said that the Van Horn area and the town of Fort Stockton have been canvassed as part of the investigation.
In a statement sent late Monday, the FBI said the two agents were transported to a hospital after being found injured in a culvert adjacent to I-10 at about 11:20 p.m. Saturday. The incident happened about 12 miles east of Van Horn, which is about 120 miles east of El Paso.
But the FBI stopped short of confirming more details, despite several news reports that cited Border Patrol union officials saying the men were ambushed. The San Antonio Express News reported Sunday that the agents were not fired upon but that the surviving agent has no recollection of what happened.
On Monday, uncertainty over what happened to the agents continued to grow. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told a local radio station he heard “at least preliminarily” that the incident was an “ambush by drug traffickers.” But he also cautioned that details needed to be confirmed.Late Monday, the Associated Press reported that Martinez’s death is also being investigated as the result of a possible accident. The AP stated the area the men were patrolling is commonly used to transport drugs.
The FBI is still asking people with information about what happened to call its 24-hour hotline.
“The FBI is aggressively investigating all leads coming in from the public and through investigative activities,” the agency said in a news release.
Read related Tribune coverage:
State and national leaders called for more resources to go to border security after a U.S. Border Patrol agent died in the line of duty Sunday. [Full story]
In August, hundreds of Texans gathered at a historic mission near the Rio Grande to protest President Trump’s proposed border wall. [Full story]
From the Rio Grande Valley to West Texas, Texans who live along the Rio Grande are preparing for the possible border wall — some eagerly, others fearfully. [Full story]