Austin may join boycott of border wall contractors, as feds cry foul


Highlights

City resolution calls the Trump administration’s border wall expansion a “symbol of fear and division.”

Contractors trade group says boycotts such as the one Austin is considering violate constitutional law.

As the Austin City Council considers joining dozens of other cities in refusing to do business with companies involved with border wall construction, the Homeland Security Department’s second-in-command blasted the idea Wednesday, implying it is undemocratic.

Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke said “we shouldn’t be tolerating” cities that “blackball” companies for their border wall connections.

“This is a democracy and a free country,” Duke said while speaking at the annual Border Security Expo in San Antonio.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council will take up a resolution to not hire any company that’s involved with the design, construction or maintenance of the controversial border barrier.

The resolution calls the Trump administration’s planned border wall expansion a “damaging symbol of fear and division” that will increase tensions with Mexico and tear apart families. The resolution has support from Mayor Steve Adler and its sponsors, Council Members Delia Garza, Greg Casar, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Ann Kitchen.

SPECIAL REPORT: Life in the shadow of the wall 

An email from Garza’s office that announced a Thursday morning press conference on the matter states “like any city, Austin has the right, within all relevant laws, to direct its business to companies that are good community partners.”

Garza, who authored the resolution, said the city is free to take a stand on this matter.

“It’s great to hear that Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke recognizes that we live in a free country, but I’m confused how that aligns with a city’s ability to choose where we direct city resources. As leaders, we have a responsibility to direct our resources in a way that aligns with our community values of respect, tolerance, and inclusion. What’s more American than that?” Garza said.

Adler said in a statement, “The border wall is not about keeping us safe. It’s a political symbol of division designed to make us scared of each other, and that kind of divisive symbol requires a response. Here it is: In Austin we build bridges, not walls.”

Dozens of cities in border states, including Tucson, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif., have adopted similar measures.

The Associated General Contractors of America trade group says boycotts such as the one Austin is considering are violations of constitutional provisions that say federal laws supersede those enacted by states and local governments.

“It’s an incredibly bad and discriminatory way to express your city’s views on a public policy issue,” said association spokesman Brian Turmail, who called the boycotts political grandstanding that would only punish construction workers. In August, the contractors group asked the Justice Department to take legal action against the cities.

Turmail said federal officials are still considering that request.

Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to Mayor Adler’s spokesman. The quote should be attributed to Adler.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Body found floating in Lady Bird Lake near Congress Avenue bridge, officials say
Body found floating in Lady Bird Lake near Congress Avenue bridge, officials say

A body was found floating in Lady Bird Lake near the Congress Avenue bridge, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said.  The man, estimated to be in his 40s, was pronounced dead at the scene, EMS officials said.  First-responders are at the scene on South Congress Avenue — in the parking lot of the Austin American-Statesman — and...
Rankings show H-E-B not just biggest Texas retailer, but a national contender
Rankings show H-E-B not just biggest Texas retailer, but a national contender

The National Retail Federation has released its annual list of the Top 100 Retailers, and a Texas favorite is charging into the top 20. Step aside “Here Everything’s Better” … now it’s “Here Everything’s Bigger.” San Antonio-based H-E-B is No. 20 on the list with 2017 retail sales of $21.94 billion &mdash...
Man acquitted in punch that injured TCU football player Cole Novak
Man acquitted in punch that injured TCU football player Cole Novak

A Travis County jury concluded that the punch that left Texas Christian University football player Cole Novak with a broken jaw outside of a West Sixth Street bar last summer was justified. Needing less than an hour to reach a verdict Wednesday, the jury acquitted 25-year-old defendant Humberto “Beto” Barrera of all charges, deciding he...
Battle over Wimberley sewage reaches critical juncture … again
Battle over Wimberley sewage reaches critical juncture … again

The on-again, off-again Wimberley wastewater treatment plant is off again while the City Council revisits a plan to outsource to a private utility company. Emotions are running high in the Hays County town of about 3,000, divided over an issue that’s been the subject of debate for more than 30 years. Some say they’ve even lost long friendships...
You might hate your commute, but study says Austin's not the worst
You might hate your commute, but study says Austin's not the worst

Statistics showing the average commute are sketchy at best. Austin and San Antonio are going to have longer commutes than Waco and Laredo because of more congestion and higher prices within the city core.  And suburban cities such as Arlington or Plano have even longer commutes because people are often living farther away on purpose.  But...
More Stories