Roe says Americans paying for not having border wall

Robert Houk • Feb 16, 2019 at 10:07 AM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said Friday Americans are paying “for not having a border wall” with Mexico through inflated health care and education costs for undocumented immigrants.

The 1st District congressman cited “14 teachers” hired in the Johnson City School System to teach English to Spanish-speaking students as an example of the impact inadequate border security is having on taxpayers.

”That’s the cost in just one community,” Roe told reporters on a conference call.

When asked if he was certain students enrolled in those English as a Second Language classes are undocumented immigrants, Roe said “many of them are.”

Debra Bentley, the director of instruction and communications for Johnson City schools, said educators have identified 55 languages other than English being spoken at home by by students, and all of them qualify for state-mandated ESL instruction.

A majority of them do speak Spanish, Bentley said, and the school system has seen its number of teachers in that area increase in recent years.

She said city schools do not document the immigration status of students enrolled in ESL classes.

Roe made his comments on border security when asked about passage of a congressional spending bill Thursday that provides $1.337 billion for the construction of 55 miles of the border wall and avoids another partial shutdown of the federal government.

The congressman said he supports President Trump’s executive decision Friday to declare a national emergency at the southern border with Mexico in order to to reroute other federal dollars to completely fund the president’s $5.7 billion wall construction project.

Roe said he agrees with the Trump’s emergency declaration even though he doesn’t “like the precedent” it sets, or the fact the issue will end up in the courts. 

“It is a crisis at the border,” Roe said. “What’s going on down there is really troubling.”

He said the porous Southern border has created both a public health and humanitarian crisis. Roe said he was disappointed the compromise approved by Congress did not include extra detention beds, or money for additional immigration judges to hear asylum cases.

Roe said his colleagues on both sides of the partisan aisle had problems with the spending bill, which includes funding for transportation infrastructure and rural broadband. The congressman said he voted for the measure with a “clothespin” on his nose to simply avoid another government shutdown.

“Nobody walked away from this deal with a smile on his face,” Roe said. “It was ugly from the beginning.”


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