Editor’s Note: Leader McCarthy and a dozen House Republicans are in El Paso, Texas today with Customs and Border Patrol to assess the growing border and immigration crisis. Ahead of their briefing, we want to share a few more stories from officials on the border to get a better understanding of what’s happening.
The majority of news coverage on the border crisis includes raw numbers of illegal crossings and about how the migrant holding facilities are full, but we hear less about the problems these conditions create. When facilities are full, Border Patrol agents are often taken off their beat to manage intake and processing at the facilities. That increases work for local police departments, and leaves the border communities vulnerable.
In Uvalde, Texas, one facility for unaccompanied minors has a maximum capacity of about 87. But currently, there are at least 110 unaccompanied minors in it, and agents are sometimes left to drop other individuals off in the middle of town.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin says some nearby cities are expected to see 25,000-30,000 migrants by this summer — numbers much bigger than the towns themselves.
“We’re not equipped in our area to handle this,” Mayor McLaughlin told us. “Our resources are strapped as it is because of the pandemic, and of course we had a snowstorm a few weeks ago.”
Bruno Lozano, Mayor of Del Rio, Texas, posted a video “pleading” with President Biden to stop releasing migrants into his city and the surrounding areas.
The Biden administration’s border and immigration policies are coming at the expense of communities like Uvalde and Del Rio. “If you do send these individuals into our community, we will be forced to make a decision to leave them without resources under these dire circumstances,” Mayor Lozano said in his February video.
Then there’s the pandemic. The number of migrants who have tested positive for coronavirus after being released by the Border Patrol into Texas has nearly doubled in recent weeks. Mayor McLaughlin says they’ll quarantine covid positive migrants in hotels, but when they come back to check on them or bring them food, some of the migrants are gone. “We’re fortunate enough to have vaccinated about 30% of our city, but we have 70% more to go,” he told us, and the border crisis isn’t helping.
The recent influx of foot traffic, which the mayor said has been “astronomical”, is putting the community’s physical safety at risk as well. There aren’t enough officers or agents to handle the intake and regular patrol, so the issues are spilling out into the streets. Back in 2019, Mayor McLaughlin said they’d have about 2-3 car chases a week, then none for a few weeks. Now, it’s everyday — roughly 10-12 high speed car chases per week. There was a head-on collision just last weekend.
“It’s just a matter of time before one of my citizens is hurt. Now we’re finding more and more of [the migrants] are armed. In January, our officers were shot at. But you didn’t hear a thing about it in the news,” he said. “It’s escalating. We’ve had houses broken into, we’ve had to put our schools on lockdown because they’re armed out in town near the schools. When that happens, then we have to pull all of our officers out on a manhunt.”
Mayor McLaughlin said a lot of local ranchers don’t go out in the fields unless they’re armed, “because migrants are coming over in droves. They’re breaking into their ranch houses, breaking into their ranch vehicles trying to steal them.” And lately, ranchers don’t stay out as long as they typically would.
Warren Cude, a member of the Texas Farm Bureau, says his producers “just go out in the middle of the day, check their waters and feed, then go back into town and stay in the house.”
“We used to never have this problem,” Mayor McLaughlin said, “It’s really escalating. We have a great relationship with our local Border Patrol. But their hands are tied. They’re following orders from up top.”
These men sense there’s no end in sight, either, under the current administration.
Warren told us a harrowing story of someone he knows in Southern Arizona who was recently forced to move off a ranch because his 6 year-old daughter went missing. He and Border Patrol followed tracks south on the ranch until they found her sitting alone barefoot miles away from their house.
As Russell Johnson expressed to us last week, these are American citizens who deserve the same protections and safeties as any other American. The border may be thousands of miles away from Washington, but their stories need to be told — and lawmakers and the Biden administration need to hear them.
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