Posted on Fri, Feb. 15, 2008reprint or license print email Digg it AIM
Border fence work to begin in months
By DAVE MONTGOMERYStar-Telegram Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday that they hope to start building a border fence in Texas in a few months, and they denied assertions that they've failed to consult with Texas border communities about the project.

"Our doors are open," U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said. "We welcome the consultation process."

A delegation of Texas border officials accused the federal government of stiff-arming their attempts to present alternatives to the fence, which has stirred intense opposition along parts of Texas' 1,250-mile border with Mexico.

Customs and Border Protection, part of the Homeland Security Department, is proceeding with condemnation suits to gain access to land for the fence, including legal action forcing Eagle Pass to relinquish 233 acres.

Greg Giddens, executive director of Customs and Border Protection's Secure Border Initiative -- a project to erect radars, cameras and other high-tech measures to reinforce traditional fencing -- said the department hopes to start construction in late spring or early summer.

The Bush administration is under a congressional mandate to have 670 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers in place by the end of the year in the four states that border Mexico. The plan calls for adding roughly 400 miles of new fencing to existing barriers.

Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, one of the most outspoken critics of the fence plan, said city officials had been meeting with attorneys to consider a response to the condemnation proceedings.

"We're fighting the battle of Eagle Pass against our own government," Foster said, contending that the federal government had "sucker-punched" his border town of 22,500 residents.

Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, appeared before the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security along with a representative of the Texas Sheriffs Coalition and private landowners from Texas and Arizona.

For Dave Montgomery's complete story, see
Washington correspondent Dave Montgomery, 202-383-6016 ... 75669.html