In an attempt to find alternatives to the proposed border fence, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has asked Homeland Security to find alternative means to the fence.
Cornyn on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary Chertoff asking that he consider improving the levees of the International Boundary and Water Commission as another choice to an actual fence being built.
“The IBWC proposal presents good alternatives for border security fencing which can be a ‘win-win’ for both DHS and the Rio Grande Valley…I strongly encourage you to fully examine the IBWC alternative proposal and assess its merits, technical feasibility, operational advantages and cost-effectiveness,” Cornyn writes in his letter.
The alternative is one that Cornyn and Valley leaders discussed last month when he visited the area and toured the levee system.
Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos and Hidalgo County Judge J.D.Salinas also want the government to build up the levee system to deter potential flooding and to act as a barrier for border security.
The concept was something Cascos brought up months ago when word first surfaced that Homeland Security planned to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, with about 70 miles passing through the Valley.
The proposed maps have 17 miles of the fencing going through the Brownsville area with some of the fence cutting through local sanctuaries and city-owned properties and parks.
Valley officials have searched for alternatives to the border fence that they say would affect the economy and relations with Mexico.
“It’s (levee system) a viable alternative,” said Cascos, who will be traveling to Washington, D.C. next week to meet with Border Patrol chiefs and representatives of the IBWC. The officials are expected to discuss the border fence.
Whether next week’s meeting will invoke a change of heart in the government’s plan to construct a fence, Cascos doesn’t know.
“At least they are willing to come to the table. Now, whether we are going to get dealt any cards, I don’t know. … All we want is the opportunity for them to look at our concept and tell us why it doesn’t work,” Cascos said.
Cascos last month sent a letter to Chertoff requesting he meet with Valley mayors and the region’s county judges to discuss the fencing. In his letter, Cascos said Valley leaders had been left in the dark on consultations and meetings regarding the fence.
The judge’s letter prompted Cornyn to visit and tour the levee systems in search of alternatives to the fence.
Cascos believes his letter has played a role in Cornyn’s visit and an upcoming visit by Chertoff scheduled for some time next month.
“Obviously it opened up some additional avenues of dialogue,” he said. “Did the letter have an impact? I think it did.”