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As Politicians Descend On The Border Some Local Residents Say There Is No ‘Crisis’

When children are held for long periods away in detention centers, such as this center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, they may suffer psychological harm.
Eric Gay
When children are held for long periods away in detention centers, such as this center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, they may suffer psychological harm.

The Texas-Mexico border remains closed to many migrants and foreign travelers, but it will be bustling on Friday as various officials and political groups visit the area.

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn plan to lead a delegation of 17 Republican senators from across the country on a tour of the Rio Grande Valley “in response to the immigration crisis surging at the southern border,” according to a media advisory.

About 80 miles from the border in Carrizo Springs, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of San Antonio also plans to lead a delegation of lawmakers on a tour of a temporary migrant shelter for the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody.

And in Laredo, Attorney General Ken Paxton is scheduled to join conservative groups and Republican congressional candidates at an event for “Border Security.”

“Laredo TX is one of the battlegrounds of our nation's Border Crisis,” the event’s description on Facebook reads. “The ‘We The People Stand For Border Security’ event will expose the truth of the immigration crisis: coyotes, child sex trafficking, drug smuggling, and the effects on all involved.”

Ahead of the event, a group of Laredo residents and community leaders came together in a virtual press conference on Thursday to object to the characterizations of a border “crisis.”

“I’ve seen crises before, and we’ve lived through disaster before, and we’re not there right now,” said Rev. Michael Smith, the executive director of the Holding Institute in Laredo.

He said they have seen migrant families come through Laredo, including those previously forced to wait out their asylum proceedings in Mexico by the Trump administration. But he said they were prepared to assist them.

“And we’re not there because we have been working towards this day for many months prior to this,” he said.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden said the Trump administration’s policy to turn away migrants during the pandemic remained unchanged for all single adults and most families. He explained that his administration would only allow unaccompanied migrant children across the border.

Biden added that the increase in families and minors arriving at the border was a result of the seasonal uptick in migration, despite Republicans blaming it on his partial rollback of Trump-era policies.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also is expected to visit Ciudad Juarez on Friday to talk about vaccines and immigration.

Biden also has left in place Trump’s restrictions against nonessential travel, only allowing Mexican nationals to cross for essential purposes such as work, education and health care and leaving border cities without many of their international shoppers and tourists.

Smith said he welcomed people traveling for the border security rally to spend locally.

“We don’t mind as a community receiving some of that out-of-town money,” he said. “Whoever you are, welcome to Laredo. Enjoy your stay. Eat lots of Mexican food and shop at our malls.”

Activist Tannya Benavides said the border security event itself pointed to a lack of a crisis in Laredo.

“You don’t invite people to bring out their folding chairs if you really believe this is really a war zone,” she said. “They are just using us as a stage.”

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María Méndez