Private border wall builder wins Texas’ largest border wall contract

Laredo’s No Wall Borders Coalition Says State Preys on Low-Income People

McALLEN, TX (Border Report) — A South Dakota contractor who built a controversial private border wall in South Texas has won a $224 million contract with the state of Texas to build new barriers near Laredo, which has been heavily criticized by opponents.

Tommy Fisher, CEO of Fisher Sand & Gravel Company, was awarded a contract last week by the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC), which oversees the construction of Gov. Greg Abbott’s state-funded border wall.

According to the commissioner’s comments at the Jan. 4 meeting, his companies are paying nearly $25 million per mile, the largest contract awarded to build the Texas border wall to date.

Fisher has been hired to build a 9.4-mile-high border wall in Webb County, although not all of the land has yet been acquired, according to commissioners. So far, only 5.4 miles of land in Webb County have been approved, and they are still working on getting permission for 4.33 miles of border land.

Laredo City Council member Melissa Cigarroa is part of the Laredo Coalition for no border wall. less than 5000.

Cigarroa was recently elected to the city council and has long been an opponent of the border wall. She filed lawsuits during the Trump administration to prevent the federal government from taking her family’s private frontier lands in Zapata County to build border walls.

Melissa Cigarroa is a member of the city council of Laredo, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

She said she believes the Texas Infrastructure Commission is now “preying” on low-income residents in those communities.

“These are very poor communities,” Cigarroa said. “Of course they prey on people who I don’t think understand the full impact of the wall.”

Cigarroa said residents are being offered about $18,000 to access and build a state border wall on their property.

“They offer them what is essentially the amount of annual income for the right of way,” she said.

The median income in these cities is between $22,000 and $24,000, she said.

Border Report requested from the Texas Facilities Commission the contract awarded to Fisher’s company and the exact location where the border wall would be built. The spokeswoman replied that the contract was “not fulfilled yet”. When completed, it will be available online along with the tender documents.”

The Laredo Coalition for No Border Wall protested on October 17, 2020 against the construction of a border wall in Laredo, Texas. Laredo was one of the few major cities in South Texas that did not have a border wall built during the Trump administration. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Cigarroa said the Laredo No Wall Coalition is trying to organize a community outreach and city hall meeting to further educate residents about what it means to give the state of Texas the right of way to the border areas.

“There is some opposition. We are trying to strategize how we can counter this and educate people,” she said.

She said the wall would cut through public services such as El Seniso Park.

“And look who built it: the one whose wall is about to collapse in the Mission,” Cigarroa said.

The New York Times recently reported that a government engineering report that was part of a lawsuit against Fisher’s private border wall showed that the private border wall was at risk of falling during a major flood and floating away.

According to a January 4 Times article, the report, which was not made public, also showed that “the fence could eventually reroute the Rio Grande in such a way that the land it sits on becomes part of Mexico. ”

But that was not raised by the commissioners during the Jan. 4 TFC meeting, which lasted just 32 minutes and approved Fisher’s contract, along with other contracts totaling $3.8 million for consultants and land management services for two other companies.

Commissioner William Allensworth wondered why the cost per mile would be so high when he said the 200-mile border wall built last year by Poland on the border with Belarus cost just $2 million a mile.

He was told that the TFC had received instructions to build a border wall just like the Trump-era border wall. He said that includes 8 to 12 feet of underground concrete to prevent tunneling and 30 feet of above-ground steel. The bollards are purchased with government surpluses “at a substantially reduced price,” said John Ruff, deputy chief executive of TFC.

During the meeting, the commissioners were told that almost $1 billion worth of contracts had been awarded to date, and hundreds of border landowners had been interviewed.

According to the released agenda, TFC has another meeting scheduled for Jan. 19 to vote on a $137 million contract with the company to build a border wall on the Texas-Mexico border.

Part of a 3-mile Texas-built border wall in Starr County, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Cigarroa acknowledges that there is a problem with undocumented migrants coming from Mexico to these small towns and rural areas, but she believes the federal government and Congress should address the problem through comprehensive immigration reform.

“It’s not that they regularly oppose illegal immigration, but it’s a false promise,” Cigarroa said. “We know that in other communities where there are walls, this has not stopped immigration. It’s encouraging that Biden made it to the border recently, and we hope there will be more pressure on Congress to address these issues.”

Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at [email protected]

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