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Agriculture Today

Protecting Texans, grant aids border region

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Todd Staples
Guest Editorial
August 28, 2013 | 4,103 views | Post a comment

The following guest commentary first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Monitor newspaper in the Rio Grande Valley and was distributed by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

AUSTIN -- There must be something in the water in our nation’s Capital. Some good, honest people go up to Washington and lose all sensibility. The apprehension of 16,000 people breaking the law and taking 35 tons of dangerous drugs off our streets is not insignificant.

On Aug. 8, as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I awarded a $120,000 grant to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The funds will buy more cameras for Operation Drawbridge, which helps federal, state, and local law enforcement along the border to monitor rural areas in real-time. This will further help to bust drug and human smugglers who are caught trespassing across Texas agricultural lands.

Last year, the Texas Department of Agriculture awarded $225,000 to assist DPS with the motion detection camera program. However, in response to our announcement, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, told a reporter for The Monitor that the grant seems insignificant. This illustrates the overriding problem: Many in Congress think that if it is not a multi-billion dollar project, it won’t work. However, numbers don’t lie. This low-cost, high-tech program leverages private landowners’ eagerness to help.

Through Operation Drawbridge, we have ensured thousands were captured and tons of drugs did not reach the United States to poison our kids. I consider this a significant accomplishment.

The congressman went on to call for more cooperation between state and federal authorities. I wish a member of the U.S. Congress would pay even half as much attention as the reporter to whom he said this. That reporter correctly pointed out immediately following the congressman’s uninformed comment that the program is a partnership between DPS, U.S. Border Patrol, and border sheriffs which employs hundreds of motion-detecting surveillance cameras installed on private property to monitor the border. If you ask me, this is the ultimate cooperation.

The Hidalgo County sheriff, who in the past has not been my biggest fan, even went on to say the program is a good idea and a force multiplier. Plus, this partnership extends even further to include Texas landowners who deal with the threats of a porous border every day and allow the cameras to be installed on their private property. It’s a combination of citizens and government coming together for the greater good.

I began working on border security initiatives after farmers and ranchers came to me with stories of daily intimidation, trespassing, drug runners, and property damage caused by Mexican cartels and their smuggling gangs. While I have repeatedly called on the federal government to supply the resources needed to protect our families, where possible, we cannot just wait around for something to happen. We must take action to aid our fellow Texans along the border.

I understand, this camera program is clearly not the only answer to our border security and immigration dilemma, but to criticize it for the sake of partisan politics is an insult to our hard-working law-enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to secure our border and a slap in the face to the landowners who have begged for Washington’s help on this for years.

Capturing drug cartel members and confiscating their drugs will always be a significant win for Texas. The only insignificant issue I see here is the short-sighted, insignificant grasp on reality that some in Washington have deluded themselves into believing.

I recommend you stick to bottled water the next time you’re in Washington, D.C.

Todd Staples is the 11th Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and recently was reelected to serve a second four-year term in this statewide elected office.

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