I hope that you’re enjoying our new spring season and the greening effect that it creates. It’s a sign of new hope, energy, and a feeling of accomplishing worthy goals.
With that in mind, we’ve had a challenging time keeping up with the many filed bills that affect our property rights, water rights, taxes and others. I would like to sincerely thank our eminent domain working group, which has expanded to helping with many of the other issues with which we have been involved over the past few months. Eric Opiela, Joe Maley, Joe’s son Charles, and Robert Howard have been working to represent STPRA’s concerns and sharing solutions for many of the issues that affect us.
Robert represents us at Texas Ag Council (TAC) in Austin. TAC meets weekly during the legislative session to collectively identify bills that impact agriculture and landowners. They put out a weekly bill tracking report that they monitor. Robert oversees the property rights bills and updates the group on the progress of all those bills.
Our working group is dedicated and committed to raise the level of awareness of STPRA in Austin. If you get the chance, please let them know that you appreciate their efforts.
Isn’t it time we speak out in one voice that Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security needs help…sooner rather than later? That is why our board decided to issue a policy statement and press release in mid-February that specifies our recommendations for comprehensively addressing the border security issue in the most practical and cost-effective way possible. Please see our news release and statement.
I had the distinct honor last month to attend the dedication ceremony introducing the Javier Vega Jr. Checkpoint, formerly named the Sarita Checkpoint, south of Riviera on Highway 77.
As many of you will recall, on August 3, 2014, Kingsville Agent Javier Vega was enjoying a day of fishing with his family near Santa Monica, Texas, when two Mexican citizens who were in the United States illegally tried to rob the family at gunpoint. Agent Vega, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, attempted to protect his loved ones when he was shot in the chest at point blank range. Agent Vega died on the way to the hospital.
• TX Newborn screening for Chagas pilot, pending funding approval
• ECHO telehealth model for physicians to present case studies
• DOD proposal with UTEP and A&M to conduct human, animal and vector surveillance on Fort Hood, JBSA and Fort Bliss
• Creation of National Chagas Alliance
• Community Health Worker Curriculum is being developed by the Taskforce to serve as a national model curriculum
Though Agent Vega’s death was not immediately classified as a line-of-duty fatality, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the decision to reclassify his death on September 21, 2016. The following year, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and U.S. Congressmen John Carter (TX-31), Michael McCaul (TX-10), and Filemon Vela (TX-34) introduced bills to honor Agent Javier Vega, Jr. for his service by renaming the Border Patrol checkpoint, where he was assigned, in his honor.
Last month, I was asked by Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office to help put together a few landowners who would be negatively affected by a border wall. The meeting was for the benefit of U.S. Senator Jon Tester from Montana, who had not been to the Texas/Mexico border before and wanted to hear about the landowners’ concerns.
While these fact-finding meetings are worthy, no solutions were brought forward, no bipartisan solutions achieved. As the crisis at the border continues and both political parties hold fast to their positions, the transnational criminal organizations take advantage of the situation and caravans of Central Americans take advantage of coming into the United States, mostly for economic reasons and family reunification. Many landowners along the river don’t want a barrier because it would adversely affect their property; many landowners further from the river want a barrier because their property is adversely affected by an unsecure border.
I hope one thing can be agreed upon, that current statutes allow for others outside this nation to take advantage of and abuse our immigration system. These statutes could be changed and changed quickly, if both parties had the will to do so.
Until next month,