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Several local, state and federal officials have been on a worthy campaign lately to land McAllen a new federal courthouse in the upcoming years.
The current downtown facility — in the iconic Bentsen Tower, which houses the U.S. District and Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas — no longer meets the demands of our growing region, especially with the explosion in immigration-related criminal cases that these federal courts and judges have had to take on these past couple of years.
In addition, the current leased facility is privately owned and has very expensive monthly rates, as well as costly overhead for any improvements or renovations, we’re told.
All parties that we have spoken with regarding this building — from lawyers to lawmakers to judges to elected officials — agree it would be better off to start fresh and construct a new federal building in McAllen that meets the specifications of the courts’ high case loads and security demands and budget rather than to continue operating at the old Bentsen Tower.
Therefore we are encouraged by recent events that appear to indicate that a new federal courthouse could be in our future.
This came about after U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and others at the congressional level persuaded U.S. Judge D. Brooks Smith, who is chairman of the Committee on Space and Facilities for the U.S. Judicial Conference, to last month come to McAllen to visit the current facility for himself. Any new federal courthouse project must go through Judge Smith’s committee so getting him here — and the fact that he had enough interest in our area to agree to come — was key to seriously starting this process.
Then a few weeks after Smith’s June 3 visit, it was announced that a feasibility study has been recommended to assess the need for a new federal courthouse here.