HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO)—After four years of restrictive immigration policies by the Trump administration, as well as growing desperation caused by the pandemic, the number of people seeking to enter the United State is rising, and local border advocates are looking to reexamine the way border communities are kept safe.
There’s been a recent influx of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. under the Biden administration.
Danny Diaz, director of organizing for the non-profit organization La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, said this is not the first time the Rio Grande Valley has seen these types of trends.
“In 2019, we had over 70-thousand unaccompanied children, and in 2016 we had over 60-thousand unaccompanied children, so it’s nothing new,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for more boots on the ground by launching Operation Lone Star earlier this month.
This operation will deploy security personnel to border areas deemed as a high threat to attempt to deny smugglers the ability to move people and drugs into Texas.
“It really isn’t doing anything to address this issue,” said Diaz. “Talking about children and families not talking about terrorist or dangerous people that are approaching and knocking on the door, these are the people, for the most part, are legally seeking asylum.”
Instead of funding more detention centers and hiring more border security, Diaz was part of a panel calling for another way.
“Can the Biden administration do better, not only some of Trump’s asylum policies, but actually start investing in border communities with things like welcoming centers and fair legal representation,” said Diaz. “Also health care for people who are legally seeking asylum.”
Other advocates like Proyecto Azteca’s Executive Director Amber Salinas said it’s time to de-politicize the border. She works with helping low-income people find homes.
“We have a waiting list of over a thousand families that are needing a decent reliable home,” she said.
Diaz said he believes the U.S.-Mexico border can be an example for the world, sparking the new hashtag #NewEllisIsland.
“We think that South Texas and border communities along the southwest could become the new Ellis Island,” said Diaz. “Here we create a system for folks that are running for their lives running from persecution, just like they had that legal process on Ellis Island.”