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Company with Valley Ties Competing for Border Wall Contract

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WESLACO - A company CEO with Rio Grande Valley ties is one of the thousands adding his company's name to the list of bidders for the border wall. 
 
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave contractors until Tuesday, April 4 to sign up for the bidding process. 

Penna Group, a Texas-based contracting company, is bidding for the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The company's CEO, Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, said he's closely tied to the Rio Grande Valley. 

After seeing life as a lawyer wasn't cutting it, Evangelista-Ysasaga said he opted for a career more in line with his family roots. 

"I decided that for me the better thing to do was to put on a hard hat, yellow vest and enjoy the fresh air than put on a tie every day," he said. 

Evangelista-Ysasaga, a descendant of immigrants who settled in the Valley, said his background have him a unique perspective. 

"We just refused to sit this one out, and I know we're catching heat for it but I would rather be a productive voice at that table," he said. 

The contractor said one side of his family came to the U.S. when it was being colonized by the Spanish. The other side came into the country illegally decades ago and spent their early years in the Valley. 

"My grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1930s. They came here undocumented and were later able to get their papers," he said. 

Evangelista-Ysasaga said the Valley is a bit of home for him. He said his ancestors shaped his mindset. 

"Really wonderful people and they taught me. My grandfather was an auto-mechanic and he taught me the value of hard work and working with your hands every day, and I miss him every day," he said. 

The lawyer-turned-contractor said he has more than 50 cousins with a portion of them living in McAllen, while others are scattered throughout the state. 

He added some of those relatives are also in the country illegally. 

"I've tried to help many family members, many of my primos, primas, tias and they… it's just impossible," he said. 

Evangelist-Ysasaga said despite the feedback he's received, he hopes to offer a more humane border wall design. 

When asked about plans, the contractor said they weren't ready to comment further on the process. 

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