AUSTIN, Texas (Nexstar) — President Donald Trump will visit the Southern border in Texas Thursday as he continues to push for a border wall. But leaders in Texas with ties to border communities say they’d rather see him address other priorities.
Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, has a home on the river.
“I tell people, do you really think I would live next to the river if I thought my family was in danger?” he said. “They’re not.”
Nevarez said the need for a border wall shouldn’t be characterized as a “crisis.” President Trump called the border a “humanitarian crisis” during his address to the nation Tuesday evening.
“We certainly do not need a wall,” Nevarez said. “If there’s a crisis at the border, it’s this – we need some help with infrastructure. That means better roads. People are dying out there because we have an economic boom that’s generated by oil and gas that’s causing a lot of problems with our infrastructure. That’s a crisis.”
He says additional funds from the state and federal government dedicated to improving infrastructure could further benefit border patrol and other agencies in charge of keeping the border secure.
“It’ll allow for better patrolling,” he said.
During a Wednesday morning press conference with the state’s top three leaders, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said issues that will be of top priorities this session include “continuing to secure the border” and “continuing to fund transportation.”
Ruben Villareal, former mayor of Rio Grande City, supports President Trump. However, he also feels the focus on a border wall distracts from other issues facing his community.
“Every single construction you make is an excuse for not attacking the problem and the real thing,” he said. “The real core of what we need to be working on is comprehensive immigration reform. Our broken immigration system serves nobody. It doesn’t serve the immigrants. It doesn’t serve the citizens of this country and it doesn’t serve law enforcement.”
He also wants to see an end to the shutdown.
“The people caught in the crossfire are all these federal employees who have bills to pay and who have families to feed,” he said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has more than 1,000 permanent troopers and pilots assigned to the border, according to a report from September 2018. There are more than 100 more DPS staffers in joint operations intelligence centers working with the federal government and working in communications. There are also special agents assigned to securing the border.