There is a common saying, “when America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” I also believe when the border region sneezes, America feels it. Whether you are building a border wall or plan to discontinue the work, the impacts are felt far from the construction site.
In Eagle Pass and Del Rio, Texas, an existing border fence is being demolished to make room for a taller, more robust border wall. In 2007, I worked with Border Patrol on the outreach program to facilitate the acquisition of property for the current fencing in these communities. I communicated with private landowners and community leaders to let them know the importance of barriers for Border Patrol’s mission.
In many instances, private landowners were eager to sell. There was also resistance. Building a fence along the Rio Grande presented engineering issues. Staying clear of the flood plain meant the footprint of the project would be need to be distanced from the river. The municipal golf course and a popular city park in Eagle Pass would be on the wrong side of the fence–not ideal.
Despite objections and a lengthy legal process, the fence was built. It’s a part of those communities now. Border Patrol established open gates to afford public access to the golf course and park. From a security standpoint, the fence still serves its deterrent purpose and funnels potential border crossers to the manned areas. Before the fence, it took only seconds for migrants to disappear into the residential neighborhoods. It seemed a win for both the Border Patrol and local residents.
Today, equipment and materials sit idle at the construction site where the existing fence is to be replaced. The contract, worth $51.9 million, was paused as a result of President Joe Biden’s executive order calling for the review of each wall contract. The review holds the potential to kill the project all together.
LGC Global Corp., a minority owned business in Detroit, Michigan, was awarded the contract in June 2020. The contract involves replacing the existing four miles of fencing in Del Rio and Eagle Pass with a much taller wall. Although LGC Global Corp. did not respond to a request for comment, their online company profile reveals their involvement in a broad range of engineering and construction projects worldwide. They also highlight their Employability Skills Program. The program helps people who have been incarcerated or for other reasons have been prevented from excelling in life. It provides job skill training and promotes employability.
What exactly does the pause mean from the federal contracting standpoint? A United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) representative said the pause will last 60 days. If a decision to terminate the contract is reached, the terms of the cancellation will be communicated to LGC Global.
The pause does not mean that work will halt altogether. Progress on the project must cease, but the contractor remains responsible for making the worksite safe. That might mean covering open pits or removing any materials that could cause a hazard. Once the worksite is safe, no progress can occur.
As far as payment, according to USACE, the contractor is paid for completed work every 30 days.
Some in the community, including local government leaders, are not fond of the plans to replace the fence. Maverick County Judge David Saucedo who has worked closely with the Border Patrol on several important issues is no fan of the project. In a conversation with Breitbart Texas, he acknowledged most residents are used to seeing the fence but stated their dislike for seeing it improved further.
Despite the mixed local opinions, the implications of a halted and potentially severed contract affect many. Idle equipment can be matched by personal paychecks. Construction material suppliers will lose business. The criminal elements beyond the border proceed as usual.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas Sector.