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Border securitySurvey of Texans in Congress finds little support for full border wall

By Abby Livingston

Published 21 December 2016

None of the thirty-eight Texans in Congress offered a full-throated endorsement of a complete border wall, a position popular with President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters. Instead, several members of the Texas delegation called for new policies on the border, including fencing and walls in some places, and beefing up security in other ways such as employing new surveillance technology and adding more federal agents.

Border crossing between wall sections // Source: theconversation.com

Few, if any, Texans in Congress support building a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Texas Tribune delegation-wide survey.

None of the 38-member Texas delegation offered full-throated support of a complete border wall, a position popular with President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters that would impact Texas more than it would any other state. Instead, several members of the Texas delegation called for new policies on the border, including fencing and walls in some places, and beefing up security in other ways such as employing new surveillance technology and adding more federal agents. Several lawmakers did not respond to multiple requests by the Tribune for comment.

We will construct a great wall at the border,” Trump said at a rally earlier this month in Cincinnati. But the president-elect has also discussed only constructing a wall in areas where natural barriers like rivers do not exist.

That would be at odds with many of Trump’s supporters, 79 percent of whom were in favor of building a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Pew Research Center poll in August.

Some Texas Republicans in Congress told the Tribune they backed building a wall but declined to clarify whether it should be a contiguous construction from San Diego to Brownsville. U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas), believes Trump’s support for a border wall is “an analogy,” according to a spokeswoman.

No Texas Democrat that responded to the Tribune’s survey offered support for a wall.

Among many Texas Republicans in Congress, the concept, while popular with the party’s base, collides with another conservative tenant: eminent domain. 

A wall would require the confiscation of ranching land near the Rio Grande, and several Texas Republicans expressed concern about the federal government taking away property — often held by families for generations — and the legal tangles that would inevitably arise from that.  

Sen. John Cornyn’s comments were typical of the views of many members of the Texas delegation:

…I would say let’s complete the Secure Fence Act, which calls for roughly 700 miles of fencing along mainly in urban areas to prevent people from moving across, particularly drugs and human trafficking and the like,” he told South Texas radio station KURV. “And then let’s enhance the technology that we need, the eyes in the sky, the UAVs and the like. And then let’s make sure that our men and women in green, the Border Patrol, have adequate troops and boots on the ground to get the job done, because if you see folks from the sky or if you see somebody climbing over a fence somewhere, you’re going to have to get a Border Patrol agent there to detain them. So, it’s going to be a combination.

Abby Livingston is the joined the Tribune Washington Bureau Chief.