FEATURE endanger El Paso’s future water supply. Bush has lobbied in Washington on behalf of a bill that would make the dump a national repository, thus lowering disposal fees for Texas’ nuclear utility operators, whose PACs and executives have contributed generously to Bush’s campaign. In July, after a two-year contested-case hearing on the dump license, two administrative law judges with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission recommended denying the license for the site. In the months leading up to the judges’ ruling, the Governor had said he would support the site only if it were determined to be safe. Although the judges have now questioned its safety, he still refuses to condemn the site thus , sending a signal to the three commissioners he appointed to the TNRCC, who will have the final say. In a sense, the whole country, or at the very least the Republican Party and the national media, is looking toward the border, where the Governor of Texas is engaged in a big effort to win over Hispanic voters. What remains to be seen, however, is whether they will be reading his lips, or looking at his record. “I would say the progress is good not great, not excellent, but good certainly not poor, ” Bush recently said of sanitation in the border’ s colonias. The statement, delivered in the predicate-free, staccato, run-on sentences his father made famous in two presidential campaigns, measures the distance between the Governor’s determination to win over the Hispanic community and his record on Hispanic issues. Because for many on the border, “progress is not excellent, but poor.” Although a program of grants and loans was approved in 1989, very few colonia residents have received water and wastewater hookups. The causes of the delay are many and often involve a lack of cooperation among local governments, the attorney general’s office, and the Water Development Board. But what is clearly lack ing is leadership. Recently, veteran Corpus Christi Senator Carlos Truan demonstrated how far a little leadership will go, when he traveled to Hidalgo County and ordered the commissioner’s court there to comply with state standards required for funding projects under the grant and loan program. At about the same time, the Governor had also taken action, of sorts. In response to a critical newspaper report on the program, he sent his new Secretary of State, Al Gonzales, on a made-for-media “investigative” tour of the colonias. Yet the Governor was already aware of the problem, and even had a chance to do something about it when a colonias bill introduced by Truan came across his desk during the 1997 legislative. session. The bill proposed the same solution that Al Gonzales later suggested: a border czar to coordinate state agency services to the colonias. But Truan’s bill placed the czar in the office of the attorney general instead of under the governor’s control. Bush vetoed it. Death in the Desert BY DEBBIE NATHAN 0 n a Saturday in July, just before sunse4 San Antonio resident WC Duderstadt made a gruesome discovery. Duderstadt was reconnoitering property on the Pendencia Ranch, in Dimmit County near Carrizo Springg when he found a corpse crumpled across a dirt road It was clear the remains had lain several days in the heat of South Texas’ broiling summer drought, because the body was rotted beyond recognition. The gray shirt, black jeans, black belt, and brown boots that clothed the corpse, however, suggested that this had been a man. By the following Wednesday, he had been logged by the local Border Patrol, scrutinized by a Justice of the Peace, shipped to the coroner in San Antonio, returned to a funeral parlor in Carrizo Springs, transported to the border, retrieved by relatives, returned home deep in Mexico, and prepared for burial. Only the barest outline of these events made the South Texas media minus the deceased’s name or any details about who he was in life. The fact that he was an undocumented migrant apparently was enough for public consumption in the United States, but those who normally deal with such bodies learned a bit more about the victim. More than fifty corpses have been found in similar circumstances in Texas this year. That is a record, but 1997 was very bad, too; so was 1996. Talk to Border Patrol officials, local sheriffs, funeral directors, and others who process the corpses, and they will tell you they have never seen anything like this summer: so much death and decay, such sadness. The dead man in Dimmit County was Juan Carlos Bravo. That was the name on the voter identification card he was carrying when he died. The card also listed his birthdate which made him twenty-three and his address in Celaya, a middling Mexican city nineteen hours by bus from downtown San Antonio. A lot of dead immigrants have been found lately with their voter registration cards, which surprises people who handle the bodies. Normally, aspiring crossers leave their ID behind; if caught, they don’t want the Border Patrol to know their real names. That may be changing, however, since the Border Patrol began its “prevention through deterrence” campaign a few years ago. The agency’s goal: to clamp down on illegal immigration by beefing up enforcement at traditional unauthorized crossing points around cities such as El Paso, Brownsville, and San Diego. The idea is to drive immigrants into isolated, treacherous areas where they will be discouraged from crossing. To fund this campaign, Congress doubled the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s budget between 1993 and 1997, from $1.5 billion to $3.1 billion. Much of the SEPTEMBER 25, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 gar st,
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