Political and business leaders along the Rio Grande say President Trump wasted a perfect opportunity in his speech to Congress last night to make a move toward real increased security along the Texas-Mexico border, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
J.D. Salinas III, who heads the Texas Border Coalition says the President's fixation with building a wall along the border is a $21 billion waste of money, when more realistic solutions are clearly avaiable.
Salinas says the Rio Grande itself is a border barrier, and the effort to improve border security should take advantage of that natural barrier.
“We must take advantage of the Rio Grande River by moving Border Patrol agents up to and onto the water. The Border Patrol maritime force is highly successful at preventing illegal river crossings when they have boats on the river, but we need more boats," he said.
Rio Grande Valley residents have long complained about what they call a '14th Century solution' to border security.
They say a wall would send the wrong message to Mexico, which is the source of much of the Valley's commerce, expressed concerns that it would erode trade, and, since the wall could not be built in the Rio Grande or on the south bank, it would cut some American ranches and laws in half, leaving some of the property of American citizens on the 'other side' of the wall.
They also say a wall would just be 'ugly,' and ask if New York City residents would like to have a wall built along the Hudson between New York and New Jersey.
The long-running joke in the Rio Grande Valley is 'if they build a 12 foot tall wall, I'll open the '14 foot tall ladder company' and make a fortune.'
Salinas says 'the greatest threat' to border security is the international drug cartels who smuggle most of their heroin and meth through the legal border crossings."
We must improve the infrastructure, technology and communications at legal border crossings used by Customs agents to stop drug trafficking and facilitate legitimate trade and travel. We must also increase Customs enforcement by 5,000 agents," he said.
Salinas says there should also be an increase in immigration judges, to cut into the half million case backlog of asylum requests from immigrants who are seeking to remain in the U.S. out of a 'credible fear' of danger if they are forced to return to their home country.