By John Waters, Publisher
Despite: a former Chief of Customs and Border Protection flying in to Big Bend National Park in early 2010 to announce the reopening of the Boquillas Crossing between the United States and Mexico; a 2010 park visit by now retired Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; a groundbreaking of the new facility by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (who recently announced his retirement), officials from Mexico, the Department of the Interior, and Department of Homeland Security; the publication announcing the federal government’s intention to open the facility in the Federal Register in 2011; the completion of the port of entry facility in March 2011; a helicopter visit to the park by Senator John Cornyn [expressly closed to the press and this journalist despite protests to the senator, his staff, the NPS and CBP]; statements from the former park superintendent the facility may have a “soft opening” in the summer of 2012;” numerous planned openings [although none officially announced]; the publication in the Federal Register of a final ruling allowing the facility to open in late January 2013; the expenditure of several million dollars to build the facility; the international crossing between the U.S. and Mexico at Boquillas has still NOT OPENED.
I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of other facts because this opening has been delayed for almost a year without any real explanation from federal authorities why. I think I just wrote the longest run on sentence in my life.
Oh WAIT: since the crossing was announced, did the Chief of Customs and Border Protection, Senator Hutchinson, the Park Superintendent, and the Secretary of the Interior all retire or announce their retirement? Why yes, they did. Maybe that is the reason for the delay? Maybe that is the reason for no explanation of the delay? Perhaps there is no one left in the federal government left who remembers what it set out to do.
Because I am a journalist, local residents often ask me questions about local issues. It is an honor, maybe the highest honor I can be paid, that the public trusts me, as a representative of the press.
When our glorious Constitution was first amended, our right to the freedom of religion, expression and press was enshrined. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “ Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Terlingua home tour along with almost 90 regional residents. Constantly I was asked, “When is Boquillas going to open?”
Or, by a national park employee, “What’s the inside scoop on Boquillas?”
Or by a former national park official, “What in the hell is going on with Boquillas?”
Or by a local resident, “That thing [Boquillas] just sitting there in the desert is a damn shame; are they ever going to open it?”
“I don’t know” was my answer to every single one. I said it many times that fine Sunday afternoon. I also told people that I firmly believe the delay in the opening is not for a lack of effort on the park of federal officials and employees. I told people that as a journalist and citizen I believe those officials and employees are acting in good faith.
I concluded my comments so many times that afternoon by telling people, “I don’t know, but I will continue working to find out when….”