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Border & Immigration

Protests Outside Rep. Cuellar's Mission Office As Border Deal Nears Completion

Reynaldo Leanos Jr.
Texas Public Radio
Diane Cantu Conkling joined the demonstration.

Protesters gathered outside of U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar’s local office in Mission, Texas, on Wednesday to condemn his involvement in bipartisan negotiations over a deal that includes funding to enhance border in the Rio Grande Valley.

The legislation, unveiled Thursday morning, includes $1.375 billion dollars "for the construction of primary pedestrian fencing, including levee pedestrian fencing, in the Rio Grande Valley Sector." That is less than the $5.7 billion President Trump previously demanded. It also provides funding for improving border security-related infrastructure and technology.

The legislation also prohibits fencing within the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the La Lomita Historical Park, the National Butterfly Center or within or near "the Vista del Mar Ranch section of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge."

Among the protesters Wedneday was Sheila Patel, a 20-year-old student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Patel said she was disappointed when she heard a bipartisan security deal was reached earlier this week.

“For a while it did seem that the Democrats seemed on our side,” said Patel. “[And] that border communities matter, the border wall is not helpful, but instead, maybe we should have expected it, but they kind of just fell through.”

Cynthia Hammond also lives in Rio Grande Valley and said she attended the protest to let Cuellar know that no amount of border wall is acceptable.

“We have been pelting him with postcards and with requests for meetings,” she said. “He knows where we stand.”

Patel said she wants people who don't live in the Rio Grande Valley to know her community is safe, and a border wall perpetuates a false image of a border region filled with dangers.

The deal still needs approval from the House and Senate and then President Trump’s signature.