More Funding Needed for Colonias Along the Border
BROWNSVILLE - There are currently about 2,200 colonias along the border from Brownsville to El Paso, according to former Secretary of State Carlos Cascos.
He doesn't agree with Governor Greg Abbott's recent veto, he said, eliminating about $900,000 in colonia funding, specifically the ombudsman program. Through that program, liaisons are assigned to counties with a large number of colonias. They serve as liaisons between residents and resources available to them.
Cascos added the money could've been reallocated to other colonia needs.
Romelia Melendez lives in the La Paloma colonia. She said it took 18 years to see lights go up near her home. La Paloma is located off Highway 281 in the outskirts of San Benito.
"Progress is slow, but it's happening," Melendez said.
There are a lot more improvements she'd like to see in her colonia, she said, to better residents' quality of life.
"More parks for the children because nowadays, they're just getting addicted to their electronics," Melendez said. "So (I would like) parks so they can go out and play."
For Eugenio Cantu, who lives just down the road in the colonia known as El Ranchito, the issues are the streets and lack of drainage systems
"We use a bunch of septic tanks here. There's three lines in our yard, and over here, our neighbor put some brand new ones," Cantu said. "Sometimes, it gets clogged up, and me - ourselves as owners - we have to do it ourselves, flush out the nasty stuff."
Cascos said these are the realities that some 400,000 people living in colonias face.
"When you have people living in those kinds of conditions, crime is going to escalate. Kids may not be able to get to school because the buses cannot go into these colonias because of the road conditions," Cascos said. "You have health concerns, because they don't have a clean water system. They don't have waste water - they are relying on septic tanks."
Cascos added counties and cities can't afford to solely provide the infrastructure or services the 2,200 colonias along the border need.
"Texas really needed to come up with a long term comprehensive plan, as to how to address colonias," Cascos said. "They are not going to go away. The financial ticket? No one really knows. The number I heard was $1 billion, but you do it one year at a time."
Melendez and Cantu both said they want to see lawmakers on the ground, so they can get a clear picture of what it's like to live in a colonia.