Residents in a border city in Texas have revealed how police and National Guard troops have taken over – seizing their properties as migrants’ trash lines the streets.
Eagle Pass, which is home to 28,500 Texans, has become the ground zero in the country-wide political fight, as swathes of lawmakers, celebrities and journalists flock to give their two cents on the ever-swelling migrant border crisis.
Illegal migrants crossing has overwhelmed nearly every sector in Eagle Pass – but state and federal responses have too, weary residents say. The Del Rio sector, including Eagle Pass, reported 16,718 migrant arrests in January.
The issue has become exacerbated under Joe Biden – and the southern border has witnessed a record of at least 6.3 million migrants crossing since he took office.
Eagle Pass resident Jessie Fuentes, 63, who owns a kayak business, whose lifeline is the water, told the Dallas Morning News about the Rio Grande: ‘We can’t even see it. We can’t even touch it.’
Eagle Pass, which is home to 28,500 Texans, has become the ground zero in this country-wide political fight as swathes of lawmakers, celebrities and journalists flock to give their two cents on the ever-swelling migrants border crisis
The Del Rio sector, including Eagle Pass, reported 16,718 migrant arrests in January
Because the banks and parks leading to the river have been under state control for over a month, Fuentes’ kayak services are only used by journalists nowadays. His business is failing – and he isn’t the only one.
Speaking of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Fuentes said: ‘He’s abusive, he’s cruel and he doesn’t care. He does not care about what’s happening in our community. The community didn’t sign up for this.’
The National Guard have swept onto 47-acre Shelby Park – a once-thriving popular plot of land with locals, which was an entryway for the only public boat ramp. Even federal Border Patrol agents are banned from entering on Abbott’s orders.
Abbott said at a news conference on February 4: ‘We’re not going to contain ourselves just to this park. We are expanding to further areas to make sure that we will expand our level of deterrence and denial of illegal entry into the United States.’
He said Shelby Park will stay under state control ‘as long as it takes to maintain security and eliminate crossings.’
Locals Magali Urbina and her husband, Hugo, own a pecan orchard on the Rio Grande – but the movement of people from the border has made their lives miserable.
Not only were migrants directly crossing on their land, but she also found it burdensome when Operation Lone Star forced themselves onto their property to quell the situation.
Laurel Cadena, a 22-year-old Eagle Pass resident, often enjoys going to the shopping strip on Main Street with her newborn daughter – and she said that she has noticed an uptick in migrant customers who go to buy all of their essentials after arriving in the US
Magali Urbina stands near a gate on pecan farm that has been bulldozed, locked and lined with concertina wire along the Rio Grande, near Eagle Pass
National Guards apprehend migrants on their property frequently – but the couple have also been stopped and questioned for being on their own land.
Urbina told the Dallas Morning News: ‘It bothers me. I want them all off my property,’ she said. ‘I want my property back. They’re taking over because they want to.’
She said that areas of her land have been bulldozed, locked and lined with razor wire in part of the effort to stop the movement of people.
While some residents welcome the actions by Texas, the city will need to rethink major events planned for Shelby Park in the coming year, including a festival in March and solar eclipse in April that could draw 50,000 visitors, Margie Montoya, the interim executive director of the Eagle Pass Chamber of Commerce, said.
Children’s baseball leagues will start soon and will likely need to find other locations to play, she said.
Laurel Cadena, a 22-year-old Eagle Pass resident, often enjoys going to the shopping strip on Main Street with her newborn daughter – and she said she has noticed an uptick in migrant customers who go to buy all of their essentials after arriving in the US.
As well as the local park, hotel parking lots in the city have been overrun by Texas Department of Public Safety personnel and their SUVs – while chain restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks are swamped with troopers and soldiers.
Hospital rooms are filled due to the thousands of migrants coming in, and the litter that comes with their perilous journey has also become contentious for Eagle Pass residents.
Honduran migrant Irma Yolani Cruz (right), 31, weeps as she nears the river bank holding her daughter Ariany, one, and her 11 year old son, alongside her husband Jaimie Ariel Rapalo, 32, and their eight year old son, as migrants cross the Rio Grande river
Protesters gather in downtown Eagle Pass in opposition to Texas Gov. Abbott’s visit to Shelby Park for a news conference along with several other governors
Protesters gather outside Shelby Park
Troopers arrest illegal immigrants for criminal trespassing in Eagle Pass
Mounds of dirty, wet clothes are thrown along the highways, while teddy bears and other possessions that have made the border journey are cluttered on sidewalks.
Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas said: ‘[Mexico] is being more aggressive in their tactics in keeping people from coming to the border.
‘I’m not happy with the federal government, and when you have thousands of people crossing without consequence, I’m not for that. However, the city didn’t come out and say, “Hey, please take our park.”‘
Not only has Eagle Pass become a backdrop for politicians to fly in, make a statement, and leave, but diehard Republicans and individuals who are against the migrant crossings have also descended on the city.
Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters against illegal immigration trekked to a ranch near Eagle Pass to show their support for Trump, an immigration hardliner and the Republican Party’s leading candidate to challenge Biden.
Some protesters drove through the downtown on Sunday with pickup trucks decorated with pro-Trump and far-right messages. Biden bested Trump in Maverick County, where Eagle Pass in located, in 2020, despite losing the state to Trump.
Despite the intense political climate, the number of migrants attempting to cross the border fell in January, particularly in Eagle Pass and surrounding areas.
The decrease was largely tied to a drop in Venezuelan migrants following a push by U.S. and Mexican authorities to disrupt smuggling networks transporting them, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told Reuters, requesting anonymity to discuss non-public information.
A spokesperson for Mexico’s migration agency said migrant arrivals ‘had decreased significantly’ from December to present day amid the stepped-up enforcement.
After Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agreed in mid-December, opens new tab to crack down on migration, Mexican authorities increased efforts to stop migrants from riding on the top of trains and sent migrants in northern Mexico to the south of the country by plane and bus.
In Piedras Negras on Sunday, Mexican National Guard troops guarded the river across from the hillocks of concertina wire on the U.S. side.
Migrants outside a nearby shelter said arrivals had plummeted in January. Some said they were trying to enter the U.S. using the CBP One app, a Biden administration program that opens 1,450 slots per day for migrants to approach a legal border crossing and request entry.