Congress’ New Spending Deal Will Add Border Fencing, But Spare Wildlife Refuge

25 miles of new border fencing will basically seal off Hidalgo County.

By Jill AmentMarch 26, 2018 12:56 pm

You can squeeze a lot into a spending proposal that’s 2,200 pages long and $1.3 trillion deep. But if you look at the fine print in the spending deal passed by Congress and signed by the president late Friday, you may notice something big in there when it comes to Texas – $1.6 billion in new border security infrastructure.

“What this bill spells out is that the Rio Grande Valley will be getting about 33 new miles of border fencing,” says Jeremy Schwartz, an investigative reporter with the Austin American Statesman. “That is about half of what Border Patrol and the Trump administration had originally been seeking for this area.”

Schwartz says 25 of the 33 miles are slated for Hidalgo County – home to McAllen and the bigger cities in the valley – and eight miles in Starr County, according to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville.

“[Hidalgo] county already has 30 miles or so of fencing, so this 25 miles will basically almost seal off the entire county,” he says. “With one sort of major exception, and that is the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, which was also specifically exempted for border wall construction by this bill.”

Schwartz says the exception made for the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge is no accident.

“The Santa Ana area really became the centerpiece, the focus of all this protest that was going on for the last year or so,” he says. “And it appears to have been successful. Border Patrol definitely had their sights set on Santa Ana, had been doing soil samples and engineering work out there. And at least for now, that plan is shelved.”

Written by Jen Rice.