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Cruz talks border security, economy, with local leaders

While about 40 protestors chanted, “No border wall,” outside Mission’s Center for Education and Economic Development, inside Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was discussing border security with more than a dozen area officials, some of whom came away from the meeting feeling a border wall is a forgone conclusion.

 

And Cruz told the officials he expects “significant reforms” to the nation’s tax and regulatory systems within the year that could return economic growth to historic levels.

20170217 MISSION Joes Ted Cruz Photos JH 2686

During his visit to Mission last Saturday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz took the time to walk across the street to talk to a group of about 40 protestors to hear their concerns. However, the rowdy group would not allow the senator to answer their questions, as they kept interrupting him in mid-sentence. Harlingen immigration attorney Jodi M. Goodwin, in the white sunglasses, was the most vocal of the group.
Progress Times photo by Joe Hinton 

“It’s going to happen,” Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal said of President Trump’s call for a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico. “But we might as well have some input into it and that’s where we’re coming from.”

 

Villarreal was one of 17 Rio Grande Valley mayors, city and county officials who met with Cruz Saturday morning to discuss border security and economic development.

 

Villarreal said if there is to be a border wall he wants to make sure it has a positive impact on the local economy.

 

“I mean at this point if they’re going to build a wall we might as well infuse the local economy and try to hire local individuals whether it be laborers or some other product, some cement and so on,” Villarreal said.

 

The mayor said he supports border security but doesn’t believe a wall is the answer.

 

“If I really believed that it was going to be an effective deterrent then I would be all for it, absolutely,” Villarreal said. “But I just don’t believe that it’s going to be statistically significant…It’s going to be a speed bump worth billions of dollars.”

 

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said it’s evident Washington is intent on building a wall to which he is opposed, calling it a “ridiculous experiment.” But he said as long as Washington has decided it’s going to happen the county might as well get what it can from it in the way of levee improvements, as was the case in 2008 when the first 22 miles of wall construction took the form of improved levees. He said the levee improvements lowered the cost of county flood insurance.

 

“If we can spend the money doing that and they want to call that building a wall then that’s OK but we want to call it levee improvements,” Garcia said.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez said she also doesn’t see a wall as the answer to border security.

 

“I think they want border security. It’s not about the wall,” Sanchez said of her constituents. “I have a son who’s a Border Patrol officer and he says a solid wall would be dangerous to them because they won’t be able to see what’s on the other side.” Sanchez said she expressed her concerns to Cruz.

 

“And so we talked about electronic walls. We talked about natural walls. We talked about improving the levees, making them higher and making them better.”

 

Prior to Saturday morning’s meeting with officials Cruz spoke with persons protesting a border wall saying he supports it because Border Patrol officers have told him it is an effective deterrent.

 

“What they told me last night, as they have said before, is it increases their ability to stop illegal incursions because it slows down the traffickers and that gives us time to go and apprehend them,” Cruz told the crowd.

 

Cruz told media members later Saturday that adding to the 20 miles of existing wall in the McAllen area could come in the form of additional levees.

 

“The additional 30 miles of walls could be part of the levee system which would serve a flood control purpose at the same time helping Border Patrol secure the border. And I think that is a very promising project going forward,” Cruz said.  

 

But protestor Jodi M. Goodwin, 47, a Harlingen immigration attorney, told Cruz if he wants to reduce illegal immigration and fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn needs to introduce comprehensive immigration legislation that would reduce the amount of time it takes to legally immigrate into the U.S.

 

“We don’t just need boots on the ground and a secure border,” Goodwin said. “Companies in the United States need to be able to bring in those high-skilled workers and low-skilled workers so that we…have a robust economy. But you also need to take care of the problem of individuals having to wait 15, 20 years just to bring their family members the legal way into the United States. If you want to stop the flow of the illegal immigration you must have a bill that will bring in workers, keep families together and has smart border enforcement.”

 

Cruz responded saying Americans are frustrated because the border has not been secured for 40 years.    

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Just after speaking with protestors Cruz sat at the center of the horseshoe-shaped table setting flanked by McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. In the presence of the media the senator told officials he was excited about the opportunity for “significant regulatory reform” to come out of Washington in the next year. He said that’s what he hears from cabinet members with whom he has spoken.

 

“Almost without exception the first words out of their mouth is regulatory reform; reducing the burden on small business. And it’s music to my ears and music to the ears of Texans that we’re going to make it easier for small businesses to grow, to hire people, to raise wages,” Cruz said.

 

Cruz said part of regulation reform includes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act more commonly known as Obamacare, which he expects to occur “in a couple months.”

 

“Dramatically simplifying” tax code is next on Washington’s agenda following regulatory reform, said Cruz.

 

“And if we do all that this year I believe we’ll see the economy take off,” Cruz said. “That we’ll see growth that will go back to historic levels; that we’ll see jobs being created and wages starting to go up after stagnating for decades.”

 

Cruz said despite varying regional perspectives on some issues it’s his impression the number one concern among all Texans is the economy. And at the top of economic stimulation is creating an environment for job growth.

 

“And people want the dignity of work,” Cruz said. “They want to be able to provide for their kids. They want be able to keep the American dream.”

 

Cruz said the best way to increase job growth is via tax and regulatory reform to reduce the financial burden on small businesses, which he said, accounted for two-thirds of all new U.S. jobs.

 

Later that afternoon Cruz me with reporters gathered at Anzalduas Park where he planned to ride along with Texas state troopers on a gunboat on the Rio Grande River. Cruz said he supported creation of a flat tax and the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.

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