Why Do Half the Gubernatorial Candidates Want to Turn the Border into a DMZ?

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It’s less than two months before the Republican primary. Suddenly our gubernatorial candidates are chomping tacos at a fundraiser in Laredo or looking tough with a posse of Border Patrol agents behind them in Brownsville.Yes folks it’s election season, when politicians in a rare instance reverse their migratory pattern by heading south to shake hands, kiss babies and collect fundraising contributions.This month the candidates released their manifestos on the border region many of them under the banner “border security,” which itself is a disconnect for many border residents. It’s well documented that border cities such as El Paso and Brownsville have lower crime rates than many other parts of Texas.  So why then do half of the candidates running for governor want to turn it into a DMZ?Instead of more border walls and more Ranger Recon, how about turning “Border Security”  into “Border Empowerment?”  Why not focus on building top-notch medical schools, better infrastructure and pulling people out of poverty? Why not solve the colonia problem once and for all and move families out of their third-world living conditions? ( Conditions that exist in many parts of Texas btw, not just the border region.)After having perused and digested the various candidate’s stances on the border region on their Web sites. Their views of the region range from sounding like a Chuck Norris flick to (gasp) actual common sense ideas. Here’s a brief rundown candidate by candidate. Rick Perry, our esteemed Governor. I believe Rick Perry has a heart. And deep deep down in that heart of his, all Rick really wants is to be his friend, action-hero wingnut Chuck Norris. How do I know this?  All you have to do is read his Border Security page where you will find stuff like “Ranger Recon,” “Boots on the Ground,” and “Surge Operations.”From Perry’s Web site you would think the border region has gone to hell in a Gucci handbag (isn’t that what all the narco wives are carrying these days?) Clearly, Rick’s a man of accion. You can almost picture him in a camo Hummer mowing down narcos right and left on Expressway 281. Oh no, wait, those are innocent border residents on their way to HEB, whoops!  And Ranger Recon, please…Texas already has Rangers stationed along the border. We don’t need to pull them off important cases in the rest of the state and send them south just because it’s election season.  Kay Bailey Hutchinson, our esteemed Texas Senator. Kay, oh Kay…who are you exactly? Because when you visit the border and talk to the folks about the border wall or immigration reform you nod your head and seem to understand the issues. Once you drive north of the Bexar County line you become someone else. You are our political Sybil. On your Web site it says you are pro-border fence, pro-287(g), which means turning cops into federal immigration officers and you want National Guard troops on the border. Pro border-fence, really? What I find especially ironic, or perhaps sad, is that the very next important issue listed on your Web site is preserving private property rights. You say they “should be constitutionally protected.” And that they are “the foundation of this great state.” Have you not noticed that for the past two years your constituents along the border have had their land seized by the federal government? Valuable land which the government is paying pennies for, which doesn’t come close to the “fair compensation” they talk about in the U.S. Constitution. Oh, and the wall cost $2.4 billion and rising, and it’s being built by a series of subcontractors overseen by the behemoth Boeing Corp, which has a limitless government contract to build the boondoggle.  I guess you also didn’t hear the border mayors say they don’t need National Guard troops on the border right now. Maybe it was the other Kay they spoke to?Farouk Shami, our esteemed hair care gadzillionaire. I know that just about every sorority girl in Texas owns one of your CHI- hair flattening gizmos. Across the nation, the sisterhood of the frizzy hair has flocked to your products, which have made you rich enough to run for, uh well, Governor.I have to say I like Shami’s border page. Let’s start with the headline for one “The Texas Border: War zone or Asset?” That about sums it up. Too many times state leadership, i.e. Perry, Hutchinson, etc.  has characterized the border as a war zone to win political points when in fact it is a huge economic and cultural asset for the rest of Texas. Billions of dollars in trade are generated by and come through the border. Farouk is spending some of his considerable millions on targeting border voters. He’s even got a plan for the region (drum roll please) It’s called: The Shami Plan. Here are the high points of the Shami Plan: Work with local officials along the border and their counterparts in Mexico to create industry clusters along the border Stop checking immigration status during all but Level One offenses (murder, rape, drug trafficking, etc) so that the undocumented community will work with police Build new interstates to facilitate greater trade opportunitiesIncrease educational opportunities Modernize infrastructure of border communitiesEnsure adequate healthcare in border communitiesWow, it sounds like Shami is actually listening to border residents instead of trying to build a wall around them.

Bill White, Our Esteemed Ex-Mayor of Houston. Guillermo Blanco didn’t have anything on his Web site so I gave one of his press people a call. I know that White has been visiting with border leaders, kissing babies etc. lately. Here is a highlight on White’s thoughts on the border region: “Border communities should be involved at the outset in changes and policies and procedures. Local authorities have practical insights into what works and what does not. We should listen to them rather than having border issues decided in political press conferences outside communities so directly affected.”

Again, we like a man who listens.

Debra Medina, Our Esteemed Gun Totin’ Conservative. Deborah skips around and hits all of the far right buzzwords: invasion, sovereignty, illegal. She likes to put things in bold. These are passages I guess she thinks are really important. On her border page titled “Better Border Needs Better Economics” she writes this in bold:

“As governor, I will work for measures to reduce social and welfare enticements for illegal immigration and to increase border sheriffs and border patrol when necessary, while making sure legitimate commerce and travel are uninterrupted.”

Okay, but how? Also, what social and welfare enticements? People without documents cannot qualify for social or welfare enticements already. This being Texas, with a miserly social service system, I wouldn’t exactly call them enticements either. I will give her points for writing “the immigration process is no longer a process at all, but another example of runaway government red tape and bureaucracy.”

At least she acknowledges that our immigration system is broken.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.