HARLINGEN — Allen West is no stranger to the Rio Grande Valley — or to the issues that affect its border communities.

The former Republican congressman and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, who is currently a political commentator most notably on Fox News, spoke Wednesday afternoon to the cadets at Marine Military Academy.

After his speech, West spoke to the Valley Morning Star about his thoughts on the border, immigration and the Valley.

What is your take on the current situation along the border?

“The most important thing, when you are a legislator, an elected official of the United States of America, you took an oath to the Constitution. That means that you are there to protect our rule of law and the sovereignty of the United States of America. When you fail to do that, you’re failing in your primary duty and responsibility.

“We need to have people that understand that America has a border that needs to be protected. We are a compassionate people, but we are compassionate for those who want to come in through the front door. And I think it is disrespectful for people to disregard our rule of law, and put our own citizens at risk and their safety and security at risk.

“And when you look at what is happening all through this border region down here along the Rio Grande Valley, that’s not taking care of American citizens that have done all the right things and abide by the rule of law.

“So first of all, we need to do something about defining what asylum is. America is not a job’s fair for the rest of the world. If you are truly being persecuted that’s fine, you can file for asylum at an embassy in your country or the first country that you come to. But it is not about saying, ‘Hey, I just want to walk through your country to get to this country, and then I just want to walk in and have you take care of me.’”

What message do you have for our local elected officials?

“Do the right thing. They need to do the right thing. They need to understand who they serve. They serve their constituents. They don’t serve the people who are coming here from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or anywhere else. They serve the people that are legal, law abiding citizens in this constitutional republic.

“And again, that’s why I carry the Constitution because I took an oath to it, and these people need to ask themselves, ‘what did I take an oath to?’”

As a former congressman with your experience on what it takes to enact laws, what solutions do you propose?

“Well, that’s the most important thing. It has to be about laws. It cannot be about ideological agendas, and I think that is the problem that is happening in the United States of America. People have their own certain agendas for whatever reason — electoral power, control — but they are forgetting about the safety of American citizens. You know, when we have Americans who are losing their lives to people that are here illegally — people that have been deported four, five, however many times — that’s a failure from the people that have sworn to be our elected representatives and legislators. So, I think it’s time that we the people demand and expect more from these individuals that we have given this electoral position to because it comes with a duty and responsibility.”

What is your message for the residents of the Valley about what they can do?

“They need to get their message out. When I hear people talk about the manufactured crisis, obviously, they are not living your lives down here in the Rio Grande Valley. They’re not experiencing the adverse effects, and what is happening of just releasing people into your communities. So I think that number one, they need to get their voices out there, get their voices to be heard. They need to have town halls. They need to demand their elected representatives attend these town halls, and they need to do what your First Amendment right is in the Constitution. You have the right to petition your government for redress of grievances, and if you don’t teach civics, guess what, you don’t know that.”