Presidio residents hear Hurd on border security, “smart wall”
PRESIDIO – In a border town with very limited resources, Border Patrol agents and Customs officers in and out of uniform filled The Bean Cafe Monday morning to listen to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, talk about border security. The shortage of manpower and housing grievances in Presidio are major concerns of CBP employees bound to the area.
Presidio was one of 20 stops Hurd is making this week throughout his congressional district, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio. His purpose is to listen to the concerns of his constituents in order to better understand the issues. The congressman’s meet-and-greet opened up with Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara welcoming Hurd and thanking him for his visit.
“We’re so grateful to you congressman,” said Guevara. “You’ve always been a presence here, so you’re like family to us, you’re not just our congressman.”
Hurd followed with a brief introduction recounting his previous visits to Presidio before jumping into the real issues he knew people were there to listen to. The threat of a border wall has been met with great opposition from locals in the community, however Customs officers and Border Patrol agents would like to see an increase in security. Hurd described his plans for a “smart wall” instead of a physical barrier; an idea he believes would appease both parties and be a better fit for areas like Presidio.
“It’s 2017, we should have operational control of our border. But the problem is folks in Washington, D.C. are trying to have a one size fits all solution to the border,” said Hurd. “We should be utilizing technology. We should be utilizing additional manpower. This is how we’re ultimately going to solve the problem.”
Hurd worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for nine years, stationed in Washington, D.C., including a tour of duty as an operations officer in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. He is the first African American Republican elected to Congress from Texas.
Hurd gave examples of using drones and radar technology to secure the border. He put an emphasis on utilizing technological devices to detect illegal crossings and drug smuggling “until we’re able to deploy our most important resource, our men and women in Border Patrol to interdict that threat.”
“Building a concrete structure across the entire southwest border is the most inefficient and least effective way to do border security,” said Hurd. “It’s $24.5 million dollars a mile versus technology which can be half a million. That $24 million dollar difference, let’s increase the pay of CBP and ICE, let’s add better technology, let’s make sure our ports of entry have the technology they need in order to stop trafficking organizations and kingpin human smugglers.”
Hurd made clear his concern for individuals in law enforcement along the border and his commitment to acquiring the resources they need to do their job and be safer. He said he understood the challenges Border Patrol agents face in remote areas like Presidio where the terrain is unforgiving, where they put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep communities, the state, and nation safe.
“Their cell phones or their push to talk radios don’t operate. They’re operating by themselves in dangerous parts of the world. It’s unacceptable. And these are some of the issues that we should address,” said Hurd.
Mikal Crowder, a Presidio High School teacher present at the meet-and-greet, challenged Hurd’s statements about proposing technology over a border wall.
“Frankly I find your ideas about using electronic surveillance, more Border Patrol much more interesting than what’s going on in the White House,” said Crowder. “How do you explain your vote, though, to provide funding for a physical barrier wall? It just recently went through Congress.”
Hurd has been questioned by many about his voting patterns, which seem to fall in line with some of President Trump’s controversial propositions. Crowder’s question referred to the spending bill that was approved last week by the House, which includes $1.6 billion toward a border wall.
“Well actually I was one of five republicans that voted against the money being included into a broader thing that provided a much needed pay raise to our military, that provided the funding for our VA (veterans affairs) clinics, that provided programs to help insure our nuclear groups,” explained Hurd.
The money included for a wall is only a portion of the bill that Hurd voted in favor of. He said there would likely be a negotiation between the Senate and the House regarding the monies.
“When this all comes out, the $1.5 billion that was earmarked for a wall is unlikely to be in a Senate proposal when they have to bring that back to the House,” Hurd said.
The congressman also talked about the Presidio-Ojinaga International Bridge expansion for vehicles and pedestrians and the $7 million grant recently awarded for reconstruction of the railroad bridge, projects Hurd was instrumental in procuring. A rise in traffic is expected to bring about more commercial activity in Presidio, increasing sales tax revenue to benefit the community.
This Monday marked Hurd’s fifth visit to Presidio. Other stops that day included Alpine and Fort Stockton. His weeklong tour of the 23rd Congressional District, cleverly titled DC2DQ, will conclude Saturday in Helotes.