McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — All three South Texas congressmen voted Tuesday against a House appropriations spending measure for 2020, which includes $1.375 billion for new border wall infrastructure on the Southwestern border.
The three South Texas Democrats, U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar were among 138 House members who voted against the measure, which was passed by 280 members. Read Tuesday’s final vote count here.
Cuellar, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the measure even though several parts of the massive spending bill came from ideas he submitted, he said via a conference call with media on Tuesday.
“I voted no because they did not put my restrictions in the measure,” said Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “I wish they’d have someone from the border who would understand these things.”
Unlike last year, Cuellar said there was no conference committee and critical decisions like money for the border wall and allowing the president to redirect military funds to border security, were made quickly by top-ranking congressional leaders to come to an agreement to avert a government shutdown. Cuellar said these leaders included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California; Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to take up the massive $1.3 trillion spending measure soon.
Other items in the measure include:
- $101 million to add 100 U.S. immigration judges and their staff.
- More transparency on the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as Remain in Mexico, in which over 60,000 asylum-seekers have been returned to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration hearings.
- “Consultation with a jurisdiction,” which Cuellar said means consulting local municipal leaders on design and placement of border barriers and infrastructure systems.
- $104 million to hire an additional 1,200 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and 240 agricultural specialists to work on the border. Most of the agricultural specialists will be stationed at ports of entry where produce comes, such as the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
- Continued border wall exemptions allotted to: Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge; Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park; La Lomita Historical Chapel and park; the National Butterfly Center; SpaceX near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas; and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
- In addition “historical cemeteries” were also added to be exempt from the border wall, which Cuellar said includes Eli Jackson Cemetery in San Juan, Texas.
It’s unclear, however, how the historical cemeteries will be determined, whether they will be required to be deemed historical sites by the state or federal government, such as the Eli Jackson Cemetery.