McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday announced that the same company that built a private border wall in South Texas has been chosen to build an additional 17 miles of border wall in Laredo, Texas.
Fisher Sand & Gravel Company was awarded the $289.5 million contract to build the 17 miles of contiguous new border wall in Laredo. The company earlier this year built three miles of controversial border wall on private property south of Mission, Texas.
Tommy Fisher, CEO of Fisher Sand & Gravel, told Border Report on Tuesday that he couldn’t elaborate on the specifics but said: “I’m just happy to be working with DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) but I can’t really say much about the job.”
Fisher’s company earlier this year was awarded the most lucrative contract ever by DHS — a $1.3 billion contract to build a 42-mile section of border wall in Arizona. Fisher said that contract includes steep terrain that makes construction more costly.
This is the second contract awarded by DHS for a total 31 miles of border wall to be built in Laredo.
Fisher said the border wall his company will be building will be on the south-end of Laredo. In May, CBP announced that a $275 million contract had been awarded to an Alabama company to build 14 miles of new contiguous border wall from downtown Laredo northward.
The new border wall contract is valued at about $17 million per mile built in Laredo, which is across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Border wall opponents say the structure will cut the city off from its only source of drinking water, the Rio Grande, and will separate them from family and friends across the river in Mexico.
The No Border Wall Coalition, a grassroots group of border wall opponents that includes several political and community leaders, said the awarding of such a lucrative border wall contract, especially during a pandemic, is ill-timed. They have vowed to fight in court the construction of any new border wall panels. And they recently won permission from the Laredo City Council to paint a “Defund the Wall” street mural in front of the downtown federal courthouse.
Among those opposing the wall is state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat who represents that border region and who was the first Hispanic woman ever elected to the Texas Senate. “Count me among the many who oppose a border wall,” she said in a statement put out by the coalition. It is “nothing more than a vile and divisive affront to our community.”
“The current administration feels they can do whatever they want. We won’t stand for that.” Webb County Commissioner Rosaura “Wawi” Tijerina said in a statement. “They have pushed aside laws left and right. They’re hoping that we all rollover instead of standing up for our rights. But we are too proud of a city with too rich of a history to do that. We’re going to fight and we are going to win.”
The 31 miles of new border wall only make up about half of the expected 69 miles of border wall that CBP has slated to surround Laredo, according to an interactive CBP map on the agency’s website.
The agency said new border wall is needed in the region because “the Laredo Sector is an area of high illegal activity, with over 21,750 illegal alien apprehensions and over 30,150 pounds of drugs seized this FY to date. The majority of its activity is occurring in areas where Laredo Sector lacks infrastructure, access and mobility, and technology. These projects will improve Laredo Sector’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations.”
Laredo Councilwoman Nelly Vielma decried the government’s decision to prioritize what she called walls over lives during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Laredo and South Texas especially hard.
“At this crucial time, when our community is experiencing a significant loss of lives, our City has been urgently requesting state and federal assistance to provide essential ICU care and hospital services to no avail,” Vielma said. “The priority for our region should be to fund a trauma hospital to serve our tax paying constituents’ needs, rather than funding this outlandishly expensive wall. We should not be losing lives due to lack of funding.”
Laredo reported 10 deaths from coronavirus over the weekend and the city’s two hospitals are “at-capacity,” Dr. Victor Treviño, the city’s health authority said Tuesday.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.