Hello Dolly!

Hurricanes and Border Fences Don't Mix, Says TBC Chairman

EAGLE PASS, Texas , July 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Hurricane Dolly bears down on the Texas Rio Grande Valley, the chairman of the Texas Border Coalition (TBC) today protested construction of the border wall by the Department of Homeland Security during the hurricane season and urged the government to refocus its efforts on rebuilding the levees that should protect the people of the Valley.

"It is unbelievably foolish for the government to be attempting to destroy and rebuild the Rio Grande River levees in the middle of hurricane season," said Eagle Pass Mayor and TBC Chairman Chad Foster . "The footings of the levees are being destroyed in the construction process so that the Department of Homeland Security can erect 18-foot concrete walls in their place. It is incredibly short-sighted that the government would open the levees at the same time that the danger is highest for devastating floods in the middle of hurricane season."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency identified the levees along the Rio Grande that are inadequate to handle potential floods, and DHS saw the requirements for levee repair as a way to achieve their border fence goals.

"The only places where they are paying to rebuild the levees are in areas where Border Patrol identified a need for a wall," Foster continued. "The government is paying to repair the levees in bits and pieces. The Rio Grande Valley needs a comprehensive solution aimed at protecting people from flood"

"This only makes sense if you work for the Department of Homeland Security, the same government agency that failed the people of Mississippi and Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina." Foster said. "This agency designed a wall that will cost American taxpayers $16 million per mile to build in some sections - $50 billion over the years."

Even Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff admits the border fence won't work - that illegal crossers will go around, over, through and under it.

In Texas , the fence is being built more than a mile from the border, trapping people - workers, families, farmers, ranchers, retirees - and wildlife on the Mexican side. The fence will cede thousands of acres of U.S. land to Mexico . Emergency or law enforcement personnel won't be able to rescue people or property when fire, flood or crime requires help. Wildlife won't be able to access the life-giving resources of the Rio Grande River. People and wildlife - in many cases, endangered species - will die.

Illegal border crossing won't be controlled until the U.S. has a well-run immigration system that expands avenues for legal workers and cracks down on illegal hiring, Foster said.

When immigration is reformed, the U.S. won't need a border fence, although the nation will continue to require beefed up Border Patrol and Customs forces to halt illegal drug smuggling; the border fence will be torn down, he added.

"As my friends and neighbors in the Rio Grande Valley prepare for what could be the worst catastrophe of their lives, Congress and President Bush should grant them relief and stop building an absurd Border Wall that endangers lives," Foster said.

The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions focused on issues that affect more than 6 million people along the Texas - Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville . TBC is working closely with the state and federal government to educate, advocate, and secure funding for transportation, immigration and ports of entry, workforce and education and health care. For more information, visit the coalition Web site at www.texasbordercoalition.org.

SOURCE Texas Border Coalition