Vela rejects border wall plan

BROWNSVILLE — U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela concedes the border wall may work in some areas but says it still would not be worth building.

If it were up to him, he told students of Texas Southmost College on Thursday afternoon, he would tear down the existing fence.

“I think history will look back 50 years from now the way they looked at the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China. It will be historically obsolete,” the Brownsville Democrat said.

Vela was asked to speak this past week about the current immigration situation by the Social Welfare class taught by instructor Sherry McCullough.

The first question the class had for him was whether the border wall would have economic repercussions. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce indicate Texas accounted for more than $84 billion in imports from Mexico and about $92.4 billion in exports in 2015.

“I have long been opposed to the wall when you have the connection and relationship we have with Mexico, and the total trade dollars between Mexico and Texas,” Vela said.

He also expressed concern over President Donald Trump’s Jan. 30 executive order, which relates to enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States.

According to Vela, the problem with the executive order is how vaguely worded it is.

Former president Barack Obama had an immigration policy, the “Felons Not Families” policy, which was more clearly defined, Vela said.

“(Obama) prioritized felons and people who had gotten misdemeanors three times. The new priorities … it is astonishing how broad they are,” Vela said. “Deportation for any crime could mean anything, even the actual crossing.”

Vela is referring to Section 5 titled “Enforcement Priorities,” which calls for the removal of illegal immigrants who have been convicted of any criminal offense, who have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved, and have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.

One of the students, Rafael Martinez, said he learned a few things after listening to Vela’s perspective.

“It gave me a bigger idea of the problems we’re facing here in the country,” Martinez said.

Melissa Tetecatl said she was appreciative Vela took the time to sit down with them and answer questions on such short notice.

“How many chances do we get to meet with a congressman? I wish we had more time to talk, but we were really appreciative. This topic is important because we’re all Hispanic here,” Tetecatl said.