COMMENTARY: Rep. Gonzalez: Border needs upgrades, not ‘emergency’ wall

U.S. REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

For too long President Trump has spun fantasies of crime in border cities like McAllen to sell his border wall. His latest ploy? Declaring a “national emergency,” to force Rio Grande Valley residents to surrender property and public lands and restrict humans’ and animals’ freedom of movement to fulfill a campaign slogan.

A Feb. 20 poll shows nearly 60 percent of voters oppose this fake emergency. The president’s irrational fixation with his wall ignores real border security needs such as safe, advanced and efficient technology. Resources would be better spent on drones, sensors, license plate readers and updated cargo scanning technology to keep smugglers from bringing drugs and contraband through ports of entry.

While McAllen remains one of the safest cities in America, we cannot ignore the threat of illegal activity at our ports. Federal and independent experts confirm smugglers often choose high volume ports to bring in drugs, weapons and other contraband.

Smugglers rely on two major holes in the system. First, despite a decade-old legal requirement to scan all cargo containers coming into the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security only scans about 17 percent of commercial traffic coming across the southern border. Second, smugglers know that even if authorities do scan a container, common materials like water or ice can block older systems from seeing dangerous contents.

New scanners can penetrate common shielding materials, scan without emitting harmful radiation, use far less energy and detect different types of dangerous materials in a single scan. These safer, more accurate technologies would curb the flow of drugs and other contraband into the U.S. without sacrificing cross-border efficiency or safety. Nonetheless, the Trump administration continues to cut these badly needed scanners and other advanced border technology in favor of an ineffective wall.

I was one of seven Democrats to visit the White House with the bipartisan Problem Solver Caucus in January. We worked to help reopen the government during the longest federal shutdown in history. Recently, I opposed a funding package that did not do enough to protect the rights of border residents, who stand to lose their property.

I urge the administration to give up this political farce of an “emergency,” and redirect its energy — and taxpayer dollars — to solutions that will actually achieve its goals.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez represents Texas Congressional District 15, which extends from Hidalgo County to Bexar County.