Texas State Representative Aaron Pena (http://www.acapitolblog.com/) presided over a hearing on emergency preparedness that united discussion on topics such as disaster relief, drug smuggling and violence, and the Gulf oil spill. Among the highlights of presentations on border security.
–To what extent should we be concentrating on the interdiction of firearms and cash heading to Mexico. How can that be done more effectively?
–What progress has local law enforcement made in establishing a regional authority to handle a major crisis? On this front local law enforcement following other models in Texas is now beginning to engage in talks to establish a regional authority. Rep. Pena expressed strong support of this effort.
–To what extent do roads need to be widened and infrastructure expanded to handle a large-scale evacuation? In the case of a major hurricane or other emergency one might imagine the need for a large-scale evacuation from Mexico to the US. Testimony indicated that many of the highways off of border crossings could not handle a large-scale evacuation.
–Business leaders expressed concern about the decline in retail sales that have resulted from longer lines at border crossings.
Miguel Diaz-Barriga and Margaret Dorsey presented the findings of their survey research at the hearings. Rep. Aaron started his introduction by giving a very nice plug for Dorsey’s book, Pachangas. Our presentation emphasized that Hidalgo County residents opposition to the border wall should not be interpreted as a lack of concern about border security. Our research shows uneven support for virtual fencing and strong support for more border patrol agents. We are now in the process of analyzing this data and through follow-up interviews more closely analyze these perspectives. Our data also shows that strong supporters of the border wall, for which there are few, favored the wall because they thought it would stop crime. Opponents viewed the wall as a waste of money that would not be effective at stopping either crime or illegal immigration.
Chad Richardson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas Pan American, talked about how cartel control of drug smuggling has now meant complete control of activities along the border including undocumented immigration. On a different note, he also pointed out that his data shows that Mexican shoppers are concerned about the long lines at border crossings. Any measure that would now require security checks for traffic into Mexico would have to consider how to do this effectively and quickly to avoid delays. Such delays would discourage shoppers and others engaged in legal activities from crossing the border.