MISSION — Eight leaders of state departments of agriculture from across the country joined the Texas agriculture chief in a border security tour in the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and his bipartisan guests with similar job titles in Alabama, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Wyoming visited the U.S. Customs and Border Protection McAllen substation and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and took a ride on the Rio Grande aboard Texas Department of Public Safety boats.
“To be frank, politicians from both parties have let us down when it comes to immigration reform and border security,” Staples said. “And so what the goal of bringing people from across the nation and states is so they can work in their respective states … to really share with them what’s going on … . And I think it’ll help continue to put pressure on Washington to do the right thing.”
Immigration reform and border security fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture because it affects farm and ranchland and agriculture workers, said Staples, who finished third out of four candidates in the March 4 Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
“This is an economic issue as well as a security issue,” he said.
In that context, the guest commissioners and secretaries of agriculture also have a stake in the issue — though they don’t have as many opportunities to see it up close.
“This isn’t just a local issue, this is a national issue,” said Cindy Hyde-Smith, the commissioner of agriculture and commerce in Mississippi. She added the trip was “eye-opening,” and showed her “the border is not safe here.”