Laredo mayor votes down anti-border wall resolution, fears it would jeopardize relationship with DHS

The Border Wall

A total of 71 miles of new border wall are to be built through Laredo, Texas, on the South Texas border with Mexico, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A divided Laredo City Council voted down a resolution opposing the construction of the border wall, also rejecting the formation of an ad hoc committee to serve as liaisons with the Department of Homeland Security regarding border wall issues.

After hearing 17 minutes of public comments from residents opposing the construction of the border wall in downtown Laredo and Webb County, the council on Monday night split in a 3 to 3 vote, rejecting forming the committee and issuing the resolution. One councilmember was out sick and did not vote.

Even though he would have been appointed to the committee, Mayor Pete Saenz told Border Report on Tuesday that he voted against the measure because “the city needs its own space” in dealing with the federal government.

In a call from Mexico City, where he and other city leaders were attending meetings, Saenz explained that they are privy to see designs and mock-ups of border wall construction plans with DHS officials, and he was fearful that if they issued a resolution condemning the process and formed this committee with the private sector, then the federal government would have been less inclined to share information with them.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz is seen in December 2019 on the banks of the Rio Grande. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“The city has so many other opportunities to deal with the federal government,” Saenz said. “We get a preview of their alignment and type of design with regards to the bollard and bulk head and that’s an advantage.”

“So this is why I’m mindful that we need our space,” Saenz said. “We need our independence to make our own decision for what is the best interest of the greater good for the city.”

City councilman George Altgelt on Monday night worried that “a blanket resolution that just says ‘no’ without taking into consideration a meaningful threat assessment” failed to do the due diligence required of this public body.

In the end, the council did vote to pass a motion to conduct a threat assessment and audit throughout the city to measure criminal activity related to border crossing by undocumented migrants.

Altgelt told councilmembers: “We need to come up with a resolution that acknowledges the incursions and acknowledges our responsibilities as a city to our own citizens to provide a safer environment.” He added that “illegal incursions that do happen within the city and all those stash houses for dope, and human smuggling, and all those high-speed car chases that do come through here.”

Last week, two construction contracts valued at nearly half a billion dollars were awarded to build 40 new miles of border wall in Laredo, making a total of 71 riverfront border wall miles to be awarded to be built. The total construction is valued at $1.05 billion, which members of the Laredo Border Wall Coalition have called “a staggering cost.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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