Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Webb County Land Owners Share Concerns About Border Violence, Wildfires

Like landowners in the rest of our great state, farmers and ranchers in Webb County kept a cautious eye on the approaching heat from last year’s historic wildfires. It’s heat of another kind, however, that threatens all border counties in the forms of spillover drug cartel violence.
Today in Laredo, I visited with local farmers, ranchers and citizens to discuss both issues during roundtable discussions on their home soil and heard firsthand their very real concerns.
With respect to wildfires, the roundtable group was in agreement that the newly established Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force is a good first step. I recently convened the task force in an effort to maximize fire prevention and mitigation strategies across the state through coordinated help from statewide leaders and first responders. We have held meetings in Austin, Fort Davis and now Laredo. It’s our goal that these discussions will lead to better coordination, swift communication and decisive action to better protect Texas citizens and property before another round of wildfires gets the upper hand.
Defending against spillover drug cartel violence is another matter altogether. While the roundtable group was quick to praise the efforts of local and state law enforcement and Border Patrol agents, it was equally quick to express frustration over the lack of sufficient federal assistance. Local landowners, residents and others – myself included – still cannot fathom how our federal officials can continue to proclaim our border is “safer than ever”− as our President Obama and his senior staff have claimed − in the face of such compelling evidence to the contrary. How can the federal government continue to ignore its constitutional duty to protect its citizens on American soil? Stray bullets, drug smuggling, trespassing and human trafficking are not just border region problems; they’re a national security breach that can and should be stopped at the doorsteps of our border communities.
Finding solutions is not always easy, but it certainly helps to invite local input. While local landowners are grateful for all that’s being done, I heard two main points from these people today: More resources are needed and so is expanded, direct communication between landowners and our federal agents. Our Border Patrol has always been accommodating to meeting with landowners any time we ask and I look forward to facilitating more discussions in the future.
Maybe Washington insiders should consider such roundtables with those who reside and work in harm’s way. Or maybe they should take the advice of retired U.S. Army Major General Robert Scales who suggested at our Border Security Summit last September that our federal leaders fill up their gas tanks, drive south and talk to border landowners, real estate agents, ranchers, farmers and other citizens to get the real story. After all, the truth is harder to ignore when you see and hear it up close and in person.

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