breaking news

Central Health parts ways with firm redeveloping Brackenridge site

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


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

Graham forged deep friendships with Texas political giants
Graham forged deep friendships with Texas political giants

Billy Graham swam naked with Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House, prayed with LBJ at Camp David and said words over the late president’s casket alongside the Pedernales River. He joined George W. Bush for a 1985 dip in the chilly Atlantic Ocean at Kennebunkport, Maine, an unknowing and unofficial baptism for a man close to giving up the bottle...
JUST IN: Vehicle strikes, injured teenage boy near James Bowie High School, EMS says
JUST IN: Vehicle strikes, injured teenage boy near James Bowie High School, EMS says

A teenage boy was struck and injured by a vehicle near James Bowie High School in Southwest Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said Wednesday. The incident happened about 5:41 p.m. The incident was reported at the school’s address at 4103 West Slaughter Lane, officials said. Medics have reported a trauma alert for the teenager, who is...
Man charged with shooting Judge Julie Kocurek takes witness stand
Man charged with shooting Judge Julie Kocurek takes witness stand

The man charged with hatching a plan to kill Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek unexpectedly took the witness stand Wednesday in federal court as he tried to persuade a judge to toss out cellphone records that put him in Austin around the time of the November 2015 attack. At times playful and at other times uncooperative, Chimene Onyeri...
BREAKING: 2 hospitalized, 7 floors evacuated after carbon monoxide leak at the Fairmont Hotel

Two people were hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon after a pizza oven spewed carbon monoxide through several floors of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Austin. Austin firefighters were called out to the hotel at 3:26 p.m. First responders found high levels of the colorless, odorless gas through the first seven floors of the building, and evacuated everyone...
Man accused of lunging at H-E-B manager with knife
Man accused of lunging at H-E-B manager with knife

A man faces up to 99 years in prison if convicted of lunging at an H-E-B grocery store manager with a knife in Austin after she caught him shoplifting, an arrest affidavit said. Samuel Briseno Jr., 32, of Austin, was charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony. Police were notified at 8:58 p.m. Thursday about the incident at the H-E-B at...
More Stories