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Home | Tag Archives: border wall

Tag Archives: border wall

As government prepares to seize more land for a border wall, some Texas landowners prepare to fight

When David Acevedo attended a meeting with officials from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Webb County last month, he thought he would come away with more information about the Trump administration’s border security plans.

But Acevedo, whose family owns 180 acres of land near the Rio Grande in south Laredo, said the meeting only produced more questions about how the administration was going to move forward with plans it had for the swath of land that’s been in his family for generations.

“They didn’t tell us that they were doing a physical barrier,” he said. “They said, ‘It may be a wall, it may be that we just need lights, we’re going to put lighting up, it may be we just need a road.’”

The only thing he knew for sure was the administration wanted access to his land to conduct surveys and site samples for border security purposes. And in a letter dated Oct. 15, the government asked him to grant access for 18 months.

The government’s actions in Webb County are similar to the sporadic but hurried moves the administration is taking in the Rio Grande Valley as it fast-tracks construction of a border barrier ahead of the 2020 election. The administration has moved ahead with construction of new barriers in the Rio Grande Valley recently and NBC news reported last week the administration is preparing court filings to seize more land in the area before the end of the month — without first telling landowners how much they’ll be offered for their land.

It’s a familiar fight for people in the Rio Grande Valley, said Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project who is urging his clients not to allow the government access to their land. He represents five Valley landowners and is in talks with another, he said last week.

“A landowner is under no obligation to sign that right of entry to allow them free access to the property, but it’s in the government’s interest [to have them sign],” he said. “They don’t want the landowners to ever see the inside of a courtroom.”

Garza said most of his clients are in the early stages of the battle — fighting in court on the issue of granting the government access to survey their land. But he said there are likely more landowners who have received notices without knowing what they represent.

“I wish we had good data on where these right of entry letters have gone out and what percentage of people gave signed them,” he said.

In Laredo, Tricia Cortez, the executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, a nonprofit environmental group, said it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the government is planning to seize private land.

“It’s all secretive. We’re finding out they also want to put 15 miles [of border wall] upstream from Laredo College [in west Laredo],” she said. “They don’t say where exactly.”

While some landowners are digging in for lengthy court battles with the government over their land, the Trump administration is likely to seize the land it wants, said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank.

“I think he’s not going to mess around trying to negotiate beforehand,” Bier said. “He doesn’t have to, according to the courts and according to the statute. He can get away with just taking the land and putting a $100 price tag on everything. He can do that and leave it to the courts to figure out what’s just compensation somewhere down the line.”

The Army Corps of Engineers did not return a call seeking comment about the land acquisitions in Webb County and the Rio Grande Valley. During a news conference in El Paso Wednesday, newly-appointed acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf said the administration’s goal was to build 450 to 500 miles of barrier by the end of 2020. He said 83 miles have already been built and an additional 153 are in progress.

Wolf said he’s confident that the Army Corp of Engineers will eventually be able to gain access to the properties the federal government needs.

“We continue to push forward on both land acquisition and construction of the wall, obviously the two have to work hand in hand,” he said, adding that the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies are “talking with landowners every single day to try to find a solution.”

The Trump administration’s ability to seize land for a border wall comes from a Great Depression-era policy called a declaration of taking. The Taking Act was passed by Congress to help spur the economy through construction projects and job creation. It was seen as an alternative to the slow-moving eminent domain lawsuits of that time. The idea was to fast-track seizures, which would allow the federal government to quickly build public works projects and generate jobs.

The act was used by George W. Bush’s administration in Texas after the 2006 Secure Fence Act called for hundreds of miles of border barrier construction. The government told landowners up front how much it was offering to pay for their land during that round of border barrier construction, but the effort still produced dozens of lawsuits after some landowners challenged the proposed amounts. (Some of the those legal challenges are still pending, a 2017 investigation by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica found.)

Even as questions about timelines and compensation swirl, people like Acevedo seem ready to dig in and fight for as long as they’re able.

Acevedo said he’s not opposed to more border security. He grants U.S. Border Patrol access to his land when the agency needs it. But he has his limits.

“Get them helicopters, get them drones, get vehicles, get them technology,” he said. “But when they come and they say they’re going to take something by eminent domain or whatever, that’s when I put my foot down.”

He said he hasn’t touched the government’s right-of-entry agreement.

“Hell no, we’re not signing anything,” he said.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

Border Patrol apprehensions dipped last month, but 2019 saw a dramatic increase from 2018

EL PASO — The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by nearly 20% last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday. After totaling about 64,000 apprehensions in August, the agency reported a September total of about 52,500 apprehensions — a decrease of about 18%.

The September total is about 40% of July’s estimated 82,000 and the lowest monthly total of the 2019 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.

Despite the months-long trend downward, the entire 2019 fiscal year’s total represents nearly a 90% increase over 2018. In 2019 about 977,500 people were apprehended or presented themselves at the ports of entry without proper paperwork, compared to 521,000 during the 2018 fiscal year.

“CBP has faced unprecedented and staggering levels of illegal crossings,” Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a news conference from Washington Tuesday.

Morgan credited the Trump administration’s polices for the latest dip in numbers and mentioned the Migrant Protection Protocols, which requires most asylum seekers from Central America, Cuba and other countries to wait for their U.S. court hearings in Mexico. The policy is designed as a deterrent to convince people in those countries not to make the trip north. Since its inception in late 2018, more than 51,000 people have been sent back to Mexico, Morgan said.

“While Congress has failed to put forth a single piece of legislation — even be able to introduce it to the floor to address this crisis — we have addressed this crisis,” Morgan said.

Morgan also lauded the Mexican government’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador deployed thousands of federal troops to that country’s southern border to slow the number of people arriving from Central America. The order came after Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports if the flow of migrants continued in nearly record numbers.

Morgan also said on Tuesday that the Trump administration is moving forward with another controversial asylum policy. In July, the administration announced that most migrants who passed through another country on their route to the United States would be ineligible for asylum protections if they didn’t apply for asylum in another country.

After a court challenge to the policy in a California federal court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the policy could be implemented while the case plays out in lower courts.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR The Texas Tribune

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Hundreds of CBP officers returned to port duty after assisting U.S. Border Patrol

Hundreds of Customs and Border Protection officers who were reassigned in March to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents have returned to their normal duties at the country’s ports, federal officials said.

In late March, more than 700 officers from ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego were reassigned amid the growing number of migrants reaching the country’s southern border. The asylum-seeking migrants, most of them from Central Americans, were overwhelming Border Patrol agents.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the agents returned to normal duty Sunday. About 300 CBP officers from the Laredo field office were included in the reassignment, said Cuellar, whose district includes a part of the country’s largest inland port.

“The reallocation of officers caused significant delays at our ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, greatly impacting our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” he said in a statement.

A CBP spokesperson confirmed that the agents, 731 total, had been sent back to normal duty.

In March, Kevin McAleenan, who was CBP’s commissioner at the time, said the agency was at a “breaking point” as apprehensions approached more than 100,000 that month alone. McAleenan has since been named acting Department of Homeland Security secretary.

The temporary duty ends as immigration agents on the southern border are seeing a significant reduction in the number of migrants trying to enter the country. Two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by more than 20 percent from July to August.

After totaling 82,055 apprehensions in July, the agency reported an August total of about 64,000 apprehensions. Although migration tends to dip during the heat of July and August, Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said the drop was a direct result of President Trump’s immigration policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, which requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until their court hearings.

The Mexican government has also beefed up its own southern border enforcement by sending thousands of its national guard troops to patrol that country’s border with Guatemala, where most of the Central Americans enter North America. That deployment came after the Trump administration threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican imports.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

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Another budget fight looms this month in Congress centering on border wall funding

WASHINGTON — The fight over funding for a border wall in Texas and other states appears to be heating up again in Congress this month as lawmakers near a deadline to pass a military funding bill.

The partisan divide over the wall was on display Thursday, when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its $694.9 billion annual defense spending bill on a 16-15 party-line vote. Democrats opposed the bill because it includes $12.2 billion to build new sections of the wall. Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster the legislation over border funding.

Last week’s split committee vote offers a glimpse into the issues that could arise in the Senate before the Sept. 30 funding deadline, which must also pass through the Democratic-controlled House. In December, a similar fight over border wall funding resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, the House is also expected to soon vote on a resolution opposing the Trump administration’s plan to divert $3.6 billion in military construction fund 175 miles of new wall. About $38 million of that would come out of the budgets of Fort Bliss in El Paso and Joint Base San Antonio. That money, which came after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border that would allow him to tap into military funding for border security without approval from Congress, would have gone toward a new dining facility in San Antonio and new roads in Fort Bliss.

Trump’s continued aggressive push to build the wall has split the Texas delegation in Congress. Democrats, especially those whose districts are along the border, remain steadfastly opposed. U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, called the decision to divert military funds a “a power grab that will undermine our national security.”

Senate Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have said that they trust the president’s judgement and expect to get those funds back, characterizing immigration through the southern border as a crisis that warrants such funding.

“Texas is being overwhelmed by the magnitude of illegal immigrations flooding into small communities,” said Maria Jeffrey, a spokesperson for Cruz. “Due to inaction by Congress, these communities are left holding the bag on where those illegal immigrants stay, how they will receive medical care, and where they will go when released. This is a security and humanitarian crisis, and Democrats in Congress need to do their jobs and work with Republicans and President Trump to secure the border.”

Still, Jeffrey said Cruz is committed to making sure that military facilities in the state “get what they need to continue serving as pillars of America’s security.”

The resolution in the House, pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will force Republican lawmakers whose states may have lost military funding to go on the record about their stance on the declaration..

When a similar resolution passed in March, the majority of Republicans voted against it. Twelve Republicans broke with Trump, however. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, who represents part of the Texas-Mexico border, was the only Texas Republican to vote with the Democrats.

In many parts of the state, border wall construction has already been finalized. Though congressmen in the Rio Grande Valley included protections for environmentally sensitive areas in the 2018 omnibus spending bill, the rest of the construction will predominantly take place on the over 1,000 miles of privately owned land along the Texas-Mexico border.

Scott Nicol, an activist with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club, works with property owners whose land is at threat of being seized by the government for border wall construction. He said law makers in Washington lack perspective when making decisions on border security.

“There’s a huge disconnect between the on-the-ground reality that we experience and what most members of congress think the border is,” he said. “For them, its just an abstraction. We are not real people, these are not real landscapes. … How do you make yourself real to somebody who lives in this fantasy world of politics?”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Maria Jeffrey.

Author:  J. EDWARD MORENO – The Texas Tribune

Border apprehensions dropped in June, but federal officials say crisis continues

The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by nearly 30% last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

In June, about 104,350 people were apprehended or turned themselves in, compared with about 144,300 in May — a decrease of 28%. That decrease outpaced last year’s May-to-June drop by 11%, officials said. But the agency also warned that the one-month change does not signal that the ongoing surge of asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and family units, is over.

“We are still in an ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis. U.S. Border Patrol made 688,375 apprehensions through the end of June, 140% higher than through this time last year. And our June apprehension numbers are still higher than last year’s, when we were already in a crisis,” the DHS press office said in a news release.

Officials credited the decline to several factors, including the recently implemented Migration Protection Protocols, which requires that some asylum seekers be sent back to Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings in American courts.

The program began on the California-Mexico border in January before expanding to El Paso-Ciudad Juárez in March. As of last week, more than 7,600 people had been returned to Ciudad Juárez, according to Chihuahua state officials. The Trump administration announced Tuesday that the MPP is now in place on the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo border.

The decline can also be partially attributed to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s deployment of Mexican National Guard troops to secure that country’s southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants from Central America intent on traveling north to the United States. López Obrador agreed to the deployment after President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports.

“Since the administration reached a new agreement with Mexico, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of interdictions on the Mexican southern border,” DHS officials said.

The MPP program has been heavily criticized by immigration attorneys and advocates who argue the U.S. government is sending asylum seekers to violent Mexican border towns where law enforcement is unable or unwilling to protect them.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR –  The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

Border wall on private land near El Paso lacks necessary permits, local officials say

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — The organization that raised millions of dollars to construct a border barrier on private land over the Memorial Day weekend will be issued a cease-and-desist letter due to a lack of permits needed for the project, a spokesperson for the city of Sunland Park, said Tuesday.

The group, We Build the Wall, used millions raised from a GoFundMe page to fund construction of about a half-mile barrier near the Texas-New Mexico state line across from Mexico. The site is on land owned by American Eagle Brick Co. and is just a few miles from downtown El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso. The site is in the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso sector.

“The city has not provided any permits, it has not approved of the construction that has gone up already,” city spokesperson Peter Ibardo told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. “They built the structure without authority or any building permits from the city.”

Ibardo added that there were no site plans or recent surveys submitted to the city.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon are listed on the group’s website as part of the leadership team. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage started the organization.

When asked at the site Tuesday about the permitting process, Kobach said the owner of the land went through the permitting process and that “official inspectors were on the property” before construction began. He said that the group hoped the project would be finished by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

But Ibardo later said the permit was only picked up Friday before the long holiday weekend, was incomplete when it was submitted and that site inspectors tried to visit the property last week but were turned away.

Kobach said construction for the project cost between $6 and $8 million and began late Friday. The group had raised more than $20 million as of Monday. Kobach said the site was kept a secret to avoid protests and said the group was looking to expand its project to other parts of the border, including California and Texas.

Ibardo said a timeline on when the situation could be resolved is unclear but that the project will be treated like any other that needs city approval.

“There are a lot of moving pieces to this, it caught everyone off guard,” he said.

He added that it’s unclear if the International Water and Boundary Commission, which oversees water and boundary issues between the United States and Mexico was made aware of the construction. We Build The Wall did not immediately respond to a request for comment later Tuesday afternoon.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Trump White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border

It would take “something dramatic” in the coming days to persuade President Trump not to close the U.S.-Mexico border, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president’s threat “certainly isn’t a bluff.”

The two senior staffers, appearing separately on Sunday morning talk shows, also reiterated the administration’s intention to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance — including programs designed to curb gang violence — to the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Those countries are the primary source of tens of thousands of migrants, including caravans of families with children, who have been presenting themselves at ports of entry and asking for political asylum in an escalating humanitarian crisis at the border.

“Democrats didn’t believe us a month ago, two months ago when we said what was happening at the border was a crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis,” Mulvaney said on ABC News’s “This Week.” He said the administration is talking about closing the border because “we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert, where we don’t have any wall.”

He also called on the Mexican government to solidify its southern border and said Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador need to do more to prevent their citizens from entering Mexico. If they cannot do that, he said, “it makes very little sense for us to continue to send them aid.”

Conway, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” pushed back against the notion that cutting aid to those countries would make matters worse. “The conditions are already awful,” she said. “The executive branch has done so much to try to mitigate these awful circumstances, and we need to send a message back to these countries, too.”

Closing the border is a drastic measure that would have immediate consequences not only for families seeking asylum but also for trade and commerce between the United States and Mexico. Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the United States, with more than $611 billion in cross-border trade last year, according to the Commerce Department. At the port of Calexico East, Calif., more than 1,000 trucks cross the border each day. Laredo, Tex., sees more than 11 trains each day transit the border, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

If the border closure applied to goods and vehicles as well as people, the economic consequences would be immediate and severe, with automakers and American farmers among the first to feel the pain, according to trade specialists.

“It’s unworkable and unrealistic, and I don’t think he could really do it,” Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinational corporations, said Sunday.

Suddenly closing the flow of people and goods between the United States and Mexico would interrupt the flow of parts headed to American factories, which could bring some production to a halt. Likewise, refrigerated trucks full of beef and other perishable commodities would jam border crossings.

“The first question would be: Where do you put it?” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official. “Stuff is going to stack up at the border because it’s already on the way there.”

To deal with “an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border,” the agency said it had redeployed 750 border agents.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), appearing on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” said, “When the president says he’s going to close the border, that is a totally unrealistic boast on his part. What we need to do is focus on what’s happening in Central America.”

Durbin said the government needs to prioritize the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the U.S.-Mexico border:

“The first thing we need to do is meet the humanitarian needs at the border instead of building fences two or three years in the future by taking money from Department of Defense, focus on facilities to serve these families so that there aren’t children who are hurt and dying as a result of this situation.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential candidate, said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that there is a “terrible humanitarian crisis” at the border and that the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform. He added, “We need to make sure that our borders are secure, but also we need a humane policy at the border in which we are not yanking tiny children from the arms of their mothers.”

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to implore Mexico to “stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA.” He wrote: “Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the Border! This will also help us with stopping the Drug flow from Mexico!”

The president told reporters on Friday, “If they don’t stop them, we are closing the border. We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games.”

Under U.S. law, people who reach the U.S. border are entitled to request asylum. But in recent months, the number of arrivals has spiked and is now at about 100,000 people a month. This has overwhelmed the system. The immigration courts have backlogs of hundreds of thousands of cases.

There is profound partisan disagreement over how to handle it. Trump continues to press for a border wall and wants to take money from military projects to build new barriers. Democrats have pushed for facilities to handle incoming families and have excoriated the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents under a now-rescinded policy.

Mexico’s leftist government has addressed the migrant caravans by offering thousands of short-term humanitarian visas allowing migrants to live and work in the country. In a remarkable concession, it agreed to a Trump administration request to host migrants who are undergoing U.S. asylum proceedings, a controversial program dubbed “Remain in Mexico.”

So far this year, Mexico has deported roughly 25,000 Central Americans, according to its immigration agency. Earlier this week, Mexico deported 66 Cubans who were planning to join a migrant caravan traveling to the United States. Between 2015 and 2018, Mexico deported 436,125 Central Americans, many of them on their way to the United States.

Jim Nealon, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, said Trump didn’t seem to understand that Central American countries were already working with the United States to discourage the flow of migrants.

“But they can’t prevent their citizens from leaving their countries any more than [Trump] can prevent citizens from leaving the U.S.,” Nealon said.

Sheridan reported from Mexico City. Nick Miroff in Washington and Kevin Sieff in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Authors: JOEL ACHENBACH, MARY BETH SHERIDAN AND DAVID J. LYNCH, THE WASHINGTON POST

Op-Ed: Hurd on the Hill: We must secure our Southern border

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

Video+Info: Trump declares national emergency to build border wall

President Donald Trump made the national emergency announcement from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday.

Watch the president’s remarks in the player above, video stream courtesy PBS News Hour.

To read about the announcement, click here; to read about the lawsuit opposing the declaration, click here.

To read the actual “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019” click here.

For in-depth coverage/streaming visit:   CNN   |   Fox News   |   cSpan

***

Congresswoman Escobar Statement on President Trump’s Unlawful National Emergency Declaration

Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s unlawful national emergency declaration:

“President Trump’s national emergency declaration is a political stunt in order to further his administrations’ anti-immigrant agenda and deliver on a campaign promise to build a wasteful and hateful border wall.

“This attack on our democracy not only undermines Congressional and constitutional authority, it hurts the training, readiness, and quality of life of our service members and their families by potentially taking away more than $275 million from our Ft. Bliss Army Base. Furthermore, this promotes an erroneous narrative that portrays all border communities, including El Paso – a safe and vibrant border community – as a problem.

“El Pasoans and fronterizos across the country know that there is no national emergency. Instead, this administration has manufactured a crisis that has used their communities as ground-zero to implement President Trump’s cruel policies towards immigrants and asylum-seeking children and families.

“President Trump’s abuse of power and lies against our southern border will be challenged in Congress and in the courts. I urge my Republican colleagues to end this complicity, stand for what is right, and work towards understanding and addressing the root causes of our nation’s challenges.”

***

Texas Border Caucus Chair Rep. Blanco Responds to Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

“Trump’s national emergency declaration for his border wall is dangerous and radical. There is no national security crisis on the border. The only crisis we have is a humanitarian crisis.

“Trump and the Republicans had control of the Presidency, the House, and the Senate for two years and could not get his border wall funded.  This declaration is a dangerous step into dark territory for a president that acts on his worst political impulses. He has trampled on the rule of law and disregarded accepted facts, even from military Generals, the F.B.I., and the U.S. intelligence community. This declaration is purely political.”

Facts:

  • According to Customs and Border Protection, arrests along the southwest border — the standard metric used to calculate illegal border crossings — numbered 396,579 in fiscal year 2018, which ended Oct. 1. That’s lower than the average over the previous decade (400,751). It’s also lower than the number of border arrests in fiscal 2016, 2014 and 2013.
  • Violent crime has been dropping in El Paso since its modern-day peak in 1993 and was at historic lows before a fence was authorized by Congress in 2006. Violent crime actually ticked up during the border fence’s construction and after its completion, according to police data collected by the FBI.
  • For the third straight year, the city of El Paso was ranked as the safest of its size in the country…Congressional Quarterly ranks the border town as the safest of cities with a population greater than 500,000.

***

Senator Rodriguez statement in response to the President’s false declaration of a national emergency

State Sen. José Rodríguez, released the following statement after the President declared a false state of national emergency:

It is difficult to fathom an emergency declaration after having had two years to work with a compliant Congress to get done what the President thinks ought to be done. The fact that he was not able to convince his own party of the need when they had control and has openly stated that this is the issue upon which he is staking his re-election campaign should be enough for any self-proclaimed constitutionalist to look askance at his proposed actions.  

More importantly, in my opinion, is that the entire premise is a lie. There is no definition of “border security,” any more than there is “open borders.” Those are simply buzzwords meant to trigger people who know little to nothing about the realities of border enforcement and have unwarranted fears about immigrants.

El Pasoans know the reality of the border first-hand. While I, and frankly, the government’s own security agencies, categorically reject the notion that the border poses an unmet national security threat, we also all recognize the very real issue of smuggling of people and contraband that must be met with smart, focused law enforcement and adequate judiciary.  El Paso meets this challenge every day without demonizing immigrants or border communities.  

The last thing the country needs is an out-of-control president who cannot work with Congress or be trusted to honor an agreement – as happened when he shut down the government for 35 days, hurting millions of people – then attempts unilateral actions in response to criticism from talk show hosts who know or care little for the facts.  

Trump announces national emergency at U.S.-Mexico border

President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency as a means to circumvent Congress and build additional border barriers. He is seeking to secure about $6.5 billion more in funding than Congress has approved.

Trump also plans to sign spending legislation to avert a government shutdown, his acting chief of staff said.

Many of Trump’s Republican allies have called a national emergency ill-advised, and Democrats immediately called the move unconstitutional on Friday. The declaration is expected to face an array of legal challenges.

Friday’s announcement follows passage of a 1,169-page spending bill that provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new fences along the border in Texas, far short of the $5.7 billion Trump had sought for 234 miles of steel walls.

Trump wrapped up a Rose Garden news conference that stretched about 50 minutes without saying he would sign the spending bill. Speaking to reporters earlier, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump intends to sign the spending bill on Friday or possibly Saturday.

In a statement issued as Trump continued to speak in the Rose Garden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called Trump’s emergency declaration “unlawful.”

“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” the two Democratic leaders said. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

“The President is not above the law,” Pelosi and Schumer added. “The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution.”

Authors: DAMIAN PALETTA, JOHN WAGNER AND JOSH DAWSEY, THE WASHINGTON POST

Lawsuits To Be Filed in D.C. Against President Trump Over Emergency Declaration

Officials with Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center announced Friday morning that they have prepared a lawsuit and will file it if President Trump issues a declaration of national emergency.

In early January, the President threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress did not allocate border wall funding. On Friday, the White House announced that it would declare a national emergency.

Via a news release, the groups shared, “There is no legal basis for issuing such a declaration and its issuance will injure specific parties and communities on the border, including the County of El Paso and the Border Network for Human Rights, who we will represent in litigation if it becomes necessary. ”

Kristy Parker, Counsel for Protect Democracy and co-counsel for this pending litigation said: “Throughout history, autocrats have used so-called emergency powers to seize control from democratic systems that don’t yield to their will. Often, they have invented fake crises for this purpose and we should all be extremely alarmed that President Trump has reached for this tool in the autocrat’s toolkit. Thankfully, our founders also knew that the seizing of legislative powers by the executive was, in the words of James Madison, ‘the very definition of tyranny’ and made it unlawful. It’s unlawful here and we look forward to the courts upholding our framers’ vision.”

“America is governed by the rule of law and the separation of powers. President Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency would violate both of these.,” Kristie De Peña, Director of Immigration and Senior Counsel for the Niskanen Center and co-counsel for the prospective lawsuit against President Trump, said. “Our lawsuit would aim to stop the dangerous precedent this would establish for the presidency and the immediate harm it would inflict on communities along the border.”

Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said: “President Trump’s emergency is a manufactured crisis. In his anti-immigrant statements about border crossings, even President Trump himself has suggested that this is a political hammer rather than a real emergency. The Border Network for Human Rights has worked for years to cultivate the relationships for a safe community. We did not do this by building walls or by criminalizing and persecuting immigrants.”

The Border Network for Human Rights is an immigration reform and human rights advocacy organization with a membership of nearly 4000 people in border communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. The County of El Paso, Texas, with a population of more than 800,000, sits on the Rio Grande directly along the southern U.S. border.

The President’s declaration of an “emergency” at the Southern border that includes El Paso County, and the promised but unauthorized construction of additional miles of border walls and barriers will immediately harm the interests of the Border Network for Human Rights and the County of El Paso, Texas.

Ricardo A. Samaniego, El Paso County Judge, said: “El Paso County is one of the safest communities in the United States. President Trump has already made many negative and false statements about our community in the attempt to justify his border wall. He has never reached out to the leadership of our community to determine if this is actually an emergency. This threatened emergency declaration will further damage El Paso County’s reputation and economy, and we are determined to stop this from happening.”

If the President follows through in using emergency powers to override the will of Congress, it would usurp the Constitutional authority granted to Congress to pass laws and appropriate government funds. It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers and threatens our representative democracy.

The Border Network for Human Rights is an immigration reform and human rights advocacy organization with a membership of nearly 4000 people in border communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. The County of El Paso, Texas, with a population of more than 800,000, sits on the Rio Grande directly along the southern U.S. border.

Should the President issue a declaration of national emergency, more information about the litigation that would follow will be available at protectdemocracy.org

Gallery+Video+Info: President Trump’s Rally, March for Truth, O’Rourke’s Speech

As President Donald J. Trump visited El Paso for a rally at the County Coliseum and 40+ groups, Veronica Escobar, Beto O’Rourke held a march in response; we here at the El Paso Herald Post provided coverage of both events.

Archived streams for both President Trump’s remarks, as well as those by the invited guests of the rally are available below.

A full gallery of both events is updated and live as well.

Crew: Darren Hunt & Andres Acosta
Crew: Alex Hinojosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of 135p: El Paso Trump supporters chanting ‘USA!’ while waiting in line.

Mariachis performing at ‘March for Truth’

Slideshow of O’Rouke speaking at “March for Truth” Rally

Audio+Gallery+Story: Redrawing the Border, Dividing History and Nature

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.”

‘The Enforcement Zones’ as drawn up by Homeland Security, and used in a CBP Briefing from 2017 | Graphics courtesy HSI/CBP

*

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.

To reinforce the significance and importance of protecting the land better than Native Americans. They have created a video, shared on their Facebook page, to bring more attention to the current situation.

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.

The Rio Grande river is more than 200 feet across in this area, and the water runs wild and deep. In fact, he has started a GoFundMe to raise money in order to save the La Lomita Mission.

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

Shutdown Over Wall Straining Border Patrol Agents Working Overtime Without Pay

As the government shutdown approached its fifth week and Washington Democrats and President Donald Trump showed no signs of coming to an agreement on how to end the stalemate Tuesday, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles could be seen patrolling just north of the Rio Grande near El Paso’s Paso del Norte bridge.

Farther west along Paisano street and across Interstate 10 from the University of Texas-El Paso, more green-and-white vans sat parked just south of the fencing that has dotted this part of the border for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the pedestrian line for travelers returning to El Paso from Ciudad Juárez moved steadily, and eight of the 12 vehicle lanes were open and operating normally, despite the shutdown that has forced Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents to work without pay as Trump demands $5.7 billion for a border wall before he’ll sign a spending bill to re-open the government and Congress resists.

But despite the feeling of normalcy, a current Department of Homeland Security agent who previously worked for the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection said the federal employees on the front line of the national immigration battle are beginning to feel the strains of the impasse.

“Morale is definitely low [inside the department]. But I can’t imagine how it is at the bridge,” said the agent, who spoke to The Texas Tribune on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak to reporters. “These guys are still working overtime … and they’re not getting paychecks. They’re working 16-hour shifts, then they go home and have to stress about the bills.”

That anxiety isn’t isolated to the country’s borders. Some of the nation’s busiest airports are seeing long security lines as an increasing number of Transportation Security Administration agents refuse to work without pay; small businesses with federal government contracts aren’t getting paid either. In El Paso, immigration attorneys whose clients are waiting for court hearings are worried about how the stalemate is going to affect those cases now that federal immigration courts are closed except for cases involving people held in detention.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University, more than 42,700 immigration hearings have been canceled as of Jan. 11, including 5,141 in Texas — the third-highest total after California and New York, where 9,424 and 5,320 cases have been canceled, respectively. The cancellations come as the backlog of immigration cases skyrocketed to 809,000 in November, according to TRAC data.

If the shutdown continues through the end of January, the TRAC report states, New York, Texas and Florida could each see more than 10,000 hearings canceled.

Traffic crosses into Texas from Mexico at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry near downtown El Paso on Jan. 14, 2019. Jorge Salgado for the Texas Tribune

El Paso immigration lawyer Eduardo Beckett said the shutdown is good news for his clients who are facing possible deportation orders or denials of their asylum claims. But, he added, “it’s a nightmare for the ones that are ready to go, those that are gung ho and are ready for their day in court.”

On Monday, he was unsure whether he would have to hustle to Los Angeles later this week to represent a client there because as of Monday, the hearing was still scheduled. Another client is in North Carolina and had an immigration hearing scheduled in Texas at the end of the month but, like the California hearing, it will be canceled if the shutdown continues.

After Beckett helped both immigrants in posting bond and filing their asylum claims, they told Beckett they would find new attorneys outside of Texas — but he said he isn’t able to file motions to withdraw or to change venues. Clerks are still accepting paperwork, but the clock on those requests won’t start until the government is back to operating under its normal schedule.

A call to the U.S. Department of Justice was answered by a recording that said, “the phone line will be unmanned for an indefinite period.”

Beckett said the irony is that Trump’s administration has pushed to speed up deportations and asylum decisions to make a dent in the backlog of cases that can take years to resolve.

“I feel bad for government employees, but I believe that this administration is 100 percent at fault,” he said.

The DHS agent said Border Patrol and Customs workers have become accustomed to working overtime, including double shifts. And that doesn’t end during a shutdown.

“When you sign up you’re basically saying that you’re willing to work overtime, whether it’s voluntary or whether they order you to work it,” the agent said.

He added that in his experience, he doesn’t see that the current barriers on the U.S-Mexico border are stopping illegal crossers — and he supports the president’s effort to build something that will.

“I can’t see why [undocumented immigrants] wouldn’t just keep doing the things they’re doing, [like] getting on a ladder and coming over, roping over or going underneath and destroying the fence,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of fence he’s trying to construct, but if is a fence that’s going to deter those types on entries, then I am all for it.”

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Videos+Story: Border Rights Advocates Push Back on Presidential Address

Before the first words of President Trump’s prime time Oval Office address Tuesday night, border human rights advocates already had a rebuttal ready.

“What we have seen at the border over the past two years are the impacts and chaos caused by a cruel and racist President who has no respect for the rule of law,” Fernando Garcia with the Border Network for Human Rights said just moments after the Presidential Address was over.

The first Presidential prime time address was meant to convince Americans that the government shutdown, now in its 17th day, is needed in order to hold out for funding for a steel fence along the nation’s southern border.

Many immigration advocates at Tuesday night’s event at BNHR say the address did little to provide concrete evidence of a sincere crisis at our southern border.

“Why, even if there was something urgent at the border right now, why this administration would choose to respond with a wall that will take years or decades to build,” said Garcia.

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who now has a massive online following, decided to take a direct approach to the assertion by President Trump that there is a national emergency at the border.

O’Rourke took to Facebook live to walk viewers around his Sunset Heights neighborhood, discuss the proximity of El Paso to Ciudad Juarez and our dependence on each other for economic and social prosperity. Former City Council member Steve Ortega and Joel Guzman, both fellow Sunset Heights residents joined in on the discussion.

While Trump was quick to bring up two recent murders in the U.S. allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants, he also failed to mention the deaths of Guatemalan migrant children Jakelin Caal or Felipe Alonso-Gomez, who both became ill and died while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Father Arturo Bañuelos with the Catholic Diocese argued that the lack of the President’s compassion for the true humanitarian crisis happening across the border was part of a larger problem.

“We need real, lasting, humane, and permanent solutions ro our immigration system that provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. and that builds a legal system that comforts with reality moving forward. With a President unable and unwilling to act, Congress must lead,” said Garcia.

During Christmas week, El Paso saw a massive surge of migrants being released by ICE from detention facilities, which sent organizations in the Sun City to scramble to house and feed the massive release of families.

On December 26, ICE released a record 522 migrants from detention in a single day. By Wednesday, January 9, all three of the emergency shelters that were opened by Annunciation House during Christmas to house the unexpected surge of migrants will be closed. The closures are representative of a return to ‘normal’ release numbers by ICE since New Year’s Day.

The overall flow of migrant families into the U.S. is still far more than it has been in recent memory according to Annunciation House Executive Director Ruben Garcia in a previous interview.

President Trump is expected to make a trip to McAllen on Thursday to survey the southern border for himself. While he has previously indicated he would consider declaring a national emergency in order to fund the construction of the Border Wall, he stopped short of any declaration on Tuesday during his address.

In a response via Twitter Tuesday night, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said “Tonight’s speech offered nothing new, just another glimpse at a POTUS w/ no understanding of how to cope w/ challenges of changing migration patterns. When he goes to south TX on Thurs, he’ll do the usual photo ops w/ federal agents. Maybe he’ll wear cowboy boots and ride a horse.”

The El Paso Herald Post will continue to offer coverage of the proposed Border Wall and the Government Shutdown.

Watch Full Border Network for Human Rights Press Conference Below

President Trump’s Address to the Nation on Border Security (Courtesy CSpan)

 

 

 

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