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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Atkinson: Voting No to Border Wall Green Light for DHS

BATB NOTE: The City Commission majority voted Tuesday to table the border fence agenda item and make another good-faith effort to negotiate with DHS. Below is Commissioner Charles Atkinson's defense of the Commission's decision. I contacted the other Commissioners and Mayor for a response, too.

"For those of you who feel tabling this issue was a bad idea let me enlighten you.

First, we are still looking for a viable alternative solution that the citizens of Brownsville can live with. By voting no to the Border Wall would have given DHS the greenlight to start constructing because they would have convinced some judge that Brownsville is not interested in working with them in good faith.

In a court of law we would have no leg to stand on. Sending the message that we expect DHS to come to the table and work with us is in our best interest.

UTB prolonged the inevitable, because they showed that DHS does not want to work with them in good faith. The judge ordered more negotiations. If there would of been a vote of NO, it would of stopped negotiations, and a judge would blame us for being unreasonable.

If DHS starts the building of the fence, why not put the floating fence anyway showing America that they are compassionate to the people on the border. The ball is in their court. They introduced the floating fence, not us.

If they are going to force a barrier, why change their view out of spite and put a steel fence? Just a thought."

-Commissioner and Mayor Pro-tem Charles Atkinson, District 2


Blogger BobbyWC said...

In substance a no vote or a vote to continue negotiations was the same. DHS is free to file suit or not file suit. The problem with Troiani's position which you adopted is, it assumes Judge Hanen would have punished the City of Brownsville. He would not do such a thing. Once DHS stipulated the removable wall was acceptable, it became etched in stone as the worse DHS could do to Brownsville and meet security requirements.

A no vote would have sent a strong message. My issue is not so much as to the vote because the result in the end would have been the same - my issue was how the vote was used to isolate the mayor in a power play.

No one can call me a defender of the mayor - the way this was handled I believe hurt COB - and it was about politics - not the people.

I am not saying any one vote was based on isolating the mayor - some commissioners may have bought Troiani's game as sincere - but it does not change the appearance of what happened.

Now think for a minute - someone who has been all over this mayor since the campaign has now been forced to look at the mayor as a victim of petty politics.

On Commissioner Atkinson's plea to the Mexican government - it was on the mark. I hope it helps. I thought it was a smart move. He proves he wants the weir. But I am sorry he did not see how he played into Troiani's power play.

Commissioner Atkinson should be commended for taking the time to defend his position.

Bobby WC

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please take a good look at what the term "floating fence" means. It would take significant action to move the "floating" fence once it is in place, and I doubt DHS has any intention of moving the thing once it's in. It's not a temporary solution in the usual sense of the word temporary. This is a huge concrete structure that DHS is talking about. So, Mr. Atkinson, please think hard before you vote for this "compromise." It is, in fact, no compromise.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note, UTB did not necessarily prolong the inevitable. In a creative and brilliant move, UTB negotiated a settlement wherein DHS must jointly assess alternatives to a physical barrier. Why doesn't the City: (1) request an agreed order identical to the one UTB negotiated; and/or (2) ask DHS to defer negotiations with the City until DHS and UTB conclude their negotiations? When those negotiations conclude, there will at least be a complete assessment of both a physical barrier and its alternatives.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Vallevision News didn't give priority to coverage of the meeting. It was shown after the half-hour mark and the Weir Project was not even mentioned.

Patricia A.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Laura A. Miniel said...

To anon:
If I remember correctly from last night, a ruling found DHS had acted in bad faith with UTB, therefore they were forced into negotiations. That's the difference. It would be great if the City could join the UTB negotiations or defer until afterwards.

To Patricia:
They spent an hour in executive. That might have thrown the coverage schedule off?

Another alternative proposal for DHS:

Evident at last night's meeting were serious trust issues surrounding DHS. Citizens came out en masse last night to protest, because they don't want to see DHS establish a foothold with a "not-so-temporary" wall that ends up becoming a permanent part of the landscape. Few apparently trust that DHS is acting in good faith.

A woman brought up the point that DHS could hire 200,000 new Border Patrol agents complete with pensions for the same price as constructing the wall, 50 billion dollars. If I understand the facts correctly, this isn't feasable because the wall mandate requires actual physical barrier construction. But - perhaps we could hire an additional xxxxx number of Border Patrol agents as an alternative to the temporary fence.

My proposal is:
a. Continue supporting the weir/levee plans as alternatives to a permanent wall
b. request a heavy, temporary influx of land/ water border patrol agents to Brownsville as an alternative to the floating fence
c. the human force will provide the necessary security until the physical levee/ weir barrier is complete
d. offer DHS incentives for the new border patrol station that would be needed in the area. Tax-free, subsidized, put together some very appealing packages
e. as an absolute last resort, concede some temporary fencing for only the most unpopulated, currently unfenced areas in question, but not downtown or in places that require Americans to lose their homes or be left on the Mexican side

As Atkinson pointed out, DPS has only minutes to stop illegal crossers from getting across the river and lost in the downtown crowds. We already have fencing down at the bridge. Replacing chain link with steel sheet is a minimal improvement. More boots on the ground however, intelligent tracking, could provide a much greater level of security. As Anthony pointed out, having more border patrol agents would be great for our economy - they would spend their salaries in Brownsville, pay Brownsville taxes, etc. As well as avoid setting back the the Downtown Revitalization development.

Would this compromise meet the mandate criteria until the levee/weir physical barrier is complete?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Laura A. Miniel said...

BTW Tabling as a stall tactic was by far the best move. The public is vehemently opposed to a wall going up in any form, and even the stakeholders, the property owners, the ones with the most to lose - came out last night to say they are willing to risk it all, even the possibility of a permanent fence, to keep that from happening.

Unfortunately, voting to end negotiations would have been taken as a slap in the face by DHS and likely provoked them to do exactly that, bring in the bulldozers and the steel beams for the permanent fence. The Commissioners did the smart thing by tabling the item. At least until a more amenable compromise is worked out, or a more sympathetic Administration takes office.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kurgan said...


You had posted that" a ruling found DHS had acted in bad faith with UTB"

Where did Judge Hanen say that?


Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ask yourself, Mr Commissioner, why did they propose the floating fence?

Because they can install it much faster than a fixed fence, and since they have no intention of removing it - the problem is solved by the deadline of the election.

DHS gets their way and you guys sign off as agreeing to it.

Keep negotiating. The judge is going to be fair.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  
Anonymous John Moore said...

Congress has mandated DHS to build 370 miles of fencing before 12/31/2008. Congress has not stipulated which 370 miles, nor has Congress burdened the City of Brownsville with the deadline. The onus is on DHS to get it done on time, not on Brownsville.

I truly believe that if we put up the hardest fight, DHS will go somewhere else. And if they don't, DHS will be held responsible, not us. Judge Hanen said this week, "I'm not going to hold DHS in contempt, but..." and we all know what that means. DHS was a hair's breadth away from being held in contempt and they are still walking on thin ice.

From the top to the bottom, this fight takes individual courage in whatever sphere of influence we have. Judge Hanen is holding DHS responsible for it's lawlessness (quite a growth since his first rulings), which takes courage. The city commission voted to table the issue, which takes courage. It takes courage for homeowners along the levee to tell the city commission about their homes and families, like the woman from La Moria. And if I can laugh at myself a bit, sometimes it takes courage to walk past the "Beware of Dog" sign in search of a signature on the Texas Border Coalition Affidavit (I was bit by a dog last year and haven't been the same since). If you are reading this, I encourage you to ask yourself what more you would be doing on this issue if you had no fear. And that's only fair, since it takes courage for the monolingual Ohio native who was raised by racist parents to accept the fact that their new dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking neighbors aren't there to do any harm, even if they did overstay a visa or swim across the river (despite what DHS and CNN tells them).

I commend the commissioners for allowing public comments prior to voting (regardless of the issue or your position, that is a huge win for democracy), and for tabling the issue even though powerful, monied interests were pushing them hard to make this deal with DHS.

Thursday, July 03, 2008  
Anonymous Laura said...

Wow thanks John
I remember your presentation at the Commission, it was incredibly powerful and eloquent. You couldn't see it, behind you so many people were nodding and saying "he's right, he's right." DHS should move on and put their 370 miles of fence somewhere else, they apparently won't without a battle.
It's unfortunate that people take their anger and frustration out on the Commission, trying to create demons and martyrs out of ordinary people. Sometimes the Commissioners take it out on each other. Its so easy to become distracted. You're right, it takes courage to stand up against the wall, the uncertainty and threats. I have so much admiration for volunteers such as the No Border Wall coalition, Melissa Z. and our Mayor and Commissioners, all unpaid, yet giving 110% to this

Thursday, July 03, 2008  
Blogger NO BORDER WALL said...

I don't think Atkinson has actually read the agreement whereby the City of Brownsville would give the land to DHS for free. Even after they receive this gift, DHS is free to do whatever they want. For example, on page 3, section 7:

"The Vendor agrees that the United States may, notwithstanding the prior acceptance of this offer, acquire title to said land in the name of the United States by condemnation or other judicial proceedings, in which event the Vendor agrees to cooperate with the United States in the prosecution of such proceedings."

So if DHS decides that they don't like the deal, the contract expressly allows them to turn around and condemn the land. It also expressly requires that Brownsville cooperate with the condemnation of their own land. So what exactly is the benefit of this agreement to Brownsville?

If anyone wants to read the entire agreement I will scan it. Email and I will send you a copy.

Friday, July 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ask yourselves the following: Has the city been sued? Has a condemnation suit been filed? Can the government take land without suit, friendly or otherwise? How long would a suit take? Fight to win not for glory.

Saturday, July 05, 2008  

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