DALLAS -As federal funding was announced for the controversial border wall at the southern tip of Texas, local government opposition formed at the western end.
In El Paso County, commissioners voted 3 to 1 Monday for a resolution demanding a halt to construction of the border wall, saying it would interfere with the region's long-established way of life. Thousands of people cross the border daily between El Paso and Juarez on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, including students who attend classes in Texas.
Commissioner Miguel Terán introduced the resolution, calling the construction of the wall an act of racism.
Although potential terrorists have been arrested crossing the border with Canada, "we're not building walls over there," he said. "We're building them here."
Among 18 speakers who supported the resolution was county attorney José Rodríguez, who recommended that commissioners direct his office to investigate the impact of a border fence in this area.
"You're joining the ranks of many communities across the country that are saying we're not going to be part of this anti-immigrant movement," he said.
In Hidalgo County, near the mouth of the Rio Grande in South Texas, county officials learned Monday that $65.7 million of federal funds have been approved for the border barrier that will double as a flood wall atop a bond-financed levee.
The county is using $40 million of proceeds from a flood-control bond issue to finance improvements to the levee on the Rio Grande that will be topped by the wall. A cooperative agreement between the county and the federal Department of Homeland Security calls for the county's flood control district to pay $48.2 million of the $113.9 million project.
The project is scheduled for completion by Dec. 30.
County attorney Stephen Crain said construction would begin as soon as bids for the work go out and are awarded. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has touted the plan as an example of the department's willingness to work with the communities that will host the border fence.
In addition to El Paso County, opposition has formed from environmentalists, including a group called No Border Wall that opposed the Hidalgo County plan.
To speed development of the 670-mile wall that will cut through wildlife refuges and national parks, the Department of Homeland Security on April 1 waived 36 laws with Congress' approval.
"The Bush administration's latest waiver of environmental and other federal laws threatens the livelihoods and ecology of the entire U.S.-Mexico border region," Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement in response to the action.
At a hearing in Brownsville last week, U.S. Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, and the House subcommittee on national parks, forests, and public lands heard from border patrol officers and others affected by the construction of the wall.
"From the testimony we heard today, it is clear that DHS is not communicating with the border communities that would be most adversely affected by this project," Reyes said.