Customs and Border Protection announced a $289,500,000 contract for 17 more miles of border wall construction in the Laredo area on Monday.
It was awarded to the North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel Company for construction along the Rio Grande in Webb County. The company, whose trade name is Fisher Industries, built a privately-funded border wall in Mission, Texas.
“We look forward to working with DHS,” CEO and President Tommy Fisher told TPR but said he couldn’t comment on the details of the contract.
Erosion has already been seen at the wall on the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission. Fisher visited on Monday for an inspection following Hurricane Hanna’s landfall and defended the project.
“Even if there was a tremendous, tremendous amount of erosion where it would come out eight to ten feet wide, our goal is to get the grass growing so there’s minimal or no erosion,” he said in Mission.
Laredo’s growing No Border Wall Coalition criticized the company’s history of “shoddy work.” It also denounced the lack of transparency from CBP, which still has to acquire land from landowners.
“The federal government seems to have prematurely awarded a contract exceeding a quarter billion dollars to Fisher Sand & Gravel to build on land that they don’t even own,” Melissa R. Cigarroa, a riverfront landowner in the coalition, said in a statement.
The Trump administration has sued many landowners in Webb and Zapata counties for access to survey their land and is aggressively pushing for wall construction. In May, it awarded a contract of more than $275 million to the Alabama-based Caddell Construction company to build 14 miles of the border wall in Webb County.
In its announcement for the second contract, CBP said the “Laredo Sector is an area of high illegal activity, with over 21,750 illegal alien apprehensions and over 30,150 pounds of drugs seized” this fiscal year to date.
“These projects will improve Laredo Sector’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations,” the agency said.
Local, state and federal elected officials in Laredo, including Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar and state Senator Judith Zaffirini, decried the wall proposal ahead of the announcement of the second contract.
Laredo Councilwoman Nelly Vielma said the federal government should instead invest in health care in the border city struggling with COVID-19.
“At this crucial time, when our community is experiencing a significant loss of lives, our city has been urgently requesting state and federal assistance to provide essential ICU care and hospital services to no avail,” Vielma said in a statement. “The priority for our region should be to fund a trauma hospital to serve our tax paying constituents’ needs, rather than funding this outlandishly expensive wall. We should not be losing lives due to lack of funding.”
TPR’s Reynaldo Leaños Jr. contributed to this report.