EAGLE PASS, Texas – Juanita Martinez walked up to the closed door Shelby Park Tuesday afternoon and an altercation broke out with a member of the Texas National Guard. The young soldier said the park was closed to the public for “safety and security”.
“Safety of what?” Martinez replied.
Martinez, chairman of the Maverick County Democratic Party, is one of the locals outraged that their city has become the centerpiece of a national political drama. A record number in December migrants crossed the Rio Grande, tens of thousands of them Shelby Park, 47 acres of grass and ball fields along the river. In response, Governor Greg Abbott ordered his forces to capture the park, mainly deny access to the Border Patrol, had used the park before process of incoming migrants. However, this also closed the park to the public.
Now Abbott plans to use the park for another political purpose: He plans to hold a news conference Sunday with 14 governors who support him in his standoff with the federal government, including Georgia’s Brian Kemp and Iowa’s Kim Reynolds.
According to Martinez, Abbott’s border security measures — troops, barbed wireshipping containers, buoys in the river – did nothing to stop the migrants, and December’s record crossings are proof of that.
“It’s a big scam, it’s political propaganda,” he said. “What is our message to Abbott? Get the hell out of Maverick County and get the hell out of our park. We don’t need you here.”
Local officials in the Eagle Pass are stressed on two fronts: the growing number of migrants and the state’s response to those migrants. Abbott and other Republicans argues that border migration is an “occupation”.
A city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the forces brought in by the governor — National Guard troops, Texas Department of Public Safety officers and Florida state troopers — have been lent. Gov. Ron DeSantis — damaged Shelby Park’s public golf course irrigation system by leaving it on the turf. The official added that the renovation will strain the city’s meager budget.
Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesman for Gov. Abbott, said in an email to NBC News on Friday that the state has committed more than $11 billion to Texas taxpayers and deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers and soldiers to “install strategic barriers and build our own border wall.”
He said that as a result of these efforts, they have “apprehended more than 495,000 illegal immigrants and deported more than 95,000 illegal immigrants,” as well as seized millions of lethal doses of fentanyl, thousands of guns, and made thousands of arrests. He added that the majority of border crossings in December occurred outside of Texas.
The Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Now city officials are nervously preparing for the arrival of another potentially large force: A caravan of Donald Trump supporters on the way to “taking back the border” as the organizers say. Ahead of Saturday’s planned rally, self-proclaimed patriots began entering Eagle Pass earlier in the week to meet a smaller-than-expected convoy. Organizers initially expected hundreds of thousands of people to attend.
Some of them Sheriffs in Texas He asked those who were already present not to come.
Donna Austin and her husband, Jerry, drove more than five hours north of Houston “to defend our country — not just Texas, but our whole country,” she said.
“I think there are a lot of criminals and pedophiles,” he said. “I think there are people who should be coming in, but it’s not being done right. They just let everyone in.”
Austin said he believes the United States should be given a chance to enter the position in the context of continuing migrants “departing in desperation” from their home countries. The Senate is negotiating a bipartisan border security billTo the left of President Joe Biden and what some Democrats suggested.
Biden is pushing a bill that would give him the power.close the border“If migrant concerns reach a daily average of 5,000 for a week or 8,500 in one day. In practice, given recent apprehension numbers, this would likely mean giving the Border Patrol almost immediate authority to turn back any migrants who cross illegally between ports of entry, even if they seek asylum.
Such a law may not reduce border crossings as intended, according to Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former policy official at the Department of Homeland Security. Similar approaches have been tried twice before: once with the President Trump’s “Stay in Mexico” programand then with Title 42A pandemic-era measure that effectively halts asylum at the border between March 2020 and May 2023. While these policies had a temporary effect on migrant flows, in both cases the number of threats at the border eventually began to rise again.
More importantly, Brown said, such a policy could only be implemented with the broad cooperation of the Mexican government—something Mexico has given no indication it is willing to do and would be subject to the whims of Mexican politics. “As someone who has worked in international affairs for a long time, I can say that putting a statute on the books that can only be implemented with the cooperation of another country is unwise,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, the number Border Patrol arrests in January It is down more than 50% from December’s record high. Experts attribute the change to seasonal fluctuations that occur almost every year, as well as Mexican authorities’ crackdown on migrant routes following a high-level US diplomatic visit to Mexico City in late December.
The only migrant shelter in Eagle Pass, Mission: Frontier of Hope, was nearly empty Thursday after hosting more than 18,000 migrants during December. Valeria Wheeler, director of the shelter, said she and her staff feel some relief, but prefer it when the shelter is full.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis,” Wheeler said. The numbers rise with the seasons, and he began to expect peaks: “It’s a cycle.”
One of the few migrants sheltered Wednesday was a woman who fled Colombia with her young son after receiving threats for her political activities. He asked to remain anonymous because he was afraid of reprisals against the family he left behind.
He said he was unaware of the extent to which immigration is a political issue in US politics, and that he had not heard of Biden’s request. “close” the border. He had left Colombia without a clear understanding of what awaited him once he reached US territory.
“I decided to leave in three days,” he said. “I didn’t have time to learn everything.”
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