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Saturday , October 20 2018
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Tag Archives: texas border security

Video+Story: Construction of $22 Million Border Wall Set to Begin Saturday

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with the Border Patrol contacted Garcia to inform him that a previously approved permit for October 6, was being rescinded due to the wall’s construction.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.

Texas State Trooper rotations to Border will continue

Despite an $800 million appropriation that includes money to permanently station more state troopers near the Rio Grande, the Texas Department of Public Safety will continue rotating officers from around the state in and out of the border counties for the foreseeable future.

That acknowledgment by Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw came during an interim Joint Committee on Border Security hearing at the Capitol Thursday, where lawmakers also heard that some county sheriffs say they were left out of key discussions on the border-security effort.

McCraw said that since August, 124 new troopers have been sent to the border region, including many who had previous law enforcement experience and graduated from an abbreviated department trooper academy last summer. About 140 new cadets are currently in training.

“We can’t take all 140 and put them down there because, in effect, [they] would be rookie troopers,” he said. “It would be unfair, plus it doesn’t provide us the capability and coverage we’d like to have in that regard.”

State police began rotating in and out during the summer of 2014 in response to a surge of tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants that crossed into Texas that year. The Legislature’s $800 million appropriation was designed to create a permanent presence, including more homegrown officers.

McCraw said last February that the rotations were effective but not as efficient as a permanent presence because temporary stints drain troopers from other parts of the state. It’s unclear when the 250 goal will be met because McCraw said the agency must also train troopers to make up for the loss of troopers through retirement and other factors.

“We’re intending to hire as many as 1,070 because it’s not just the 250 we need to replace but also to address the attrition during that period of time,” he said

He said the agency has spent about $78 million so far, with another $5 million earmarked for security efforts. In addition to the new hires, the agency has installed more than 480 cameras to detect illegal activity in the area, deployed eight tactical boats and added 14 aircraft.

State Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, told the committee he’s heard from several border county sheriffs who felt left out of important discussions during debate on border security legislation last year.

“Those guys know better than anybody who the (suspicious ones) around the community are, especially the smaller ones,” Nevárez said. “They’re asking them to play in the game but they don’t give them the ball.”

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who sponsored House Bill 11, said the sheriffs didn’t approach him until late in the process.

McCraw said he couldn’t speak to what discussions between sheriffs and lawmakers.

“We’ve been very vocal and very candid about how important they play — and all law enforcement plays — in this game,” he said. “As it relates to the Legislature and funding along those lines, that’s something they need to deal with the Legislature directly.”

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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