McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Residents in the South Texas town of Laredo are saying “ya basta” (enough) to recent portrayals by lawmakers and others coming to tour the area who say it is a battleground and unsafe due to the and influx in migrants to the region.
Members of the No Border Wall Laredo Coalition said they have been pushing back, holding virtual events and downtown rallies in an effort to restore Laredo’s good name.
“For years, the border has been used as a political pawn to justify harsh and inhumane policies towards immigrants, many seeking refuge and asylum,” the group said in a statement issued Thursday. “There’s no surprise that border wall proponents are proactively stoking fear with the unfounded claim that not having a wall or strong law enforcement measures on our border has created a new so-called ‘crisis.'”
Since February, there has been an increase of single adult migrants trying to cross into Laredo. Title 42 travel restrictions, however, still remain in effect through April 21 — to stop the spread of coronavirus between countries — and that means that if those adults are apprehended they most likely will be deported back to Mexico.
On March 26, many residents gathered in the city’s downtown San Agustin Plaza “to make it clear that the portrayal of the border as a battleground is directly contradicted by data and the lived reality of the people who live and work on the border,” the coalition said.
The rally came on the same day as another rally was held in Laredo, this one led by the chair of the Republican Party of Texas who allowed Stewart Rhodes, head of the far-right paramilitary the Oath Keepers, to speak.
That rally — the “We The People Stand For Border Security” — event included hours of speeches and Rhodes even reportedly said that he might soon go to jail for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a report in the Daily Beast.
“You can’t support a violent attack on America and then come down to the border and try to say that you are trying to save America,” said event participant Valentin Ruiz, a U.S. Army veteran.
“We want to set the record straight and affirm that Laredo and many border cities of our size remain among the safest in the country. We’re tired of being used and having our day-to-day reality distorted. We are thriving and dynamic communities in this country and want to be portrayed and respected as such,” the coalition said in a statement.
We’re tired of being used and having our day-to-day reality distorted. We are thriving and dynamic communities in this country and want to be portrayed and respected as such.”No Border Wall Laredo Coalition statement
FBI crime statistics through 2019 show a significant drop in violent crime in Laredo from 2009 to 2019, the last data available. Although violent crimes hit a low in 2017 and have gone up slightly since then, the numbers are still far below 2009 levels (see FBI graph above.)
“The data is really clear. Laredo and border towns are among the safest cities in the U.S.,” said educator, rancher and No Border Wall Coalition member Mary Sue Galindo. “Life here is safe and peaceful. Outsiders coming here to tell people who actually live here that Laredo is dangerous is not only a lie, it’s an offensive stereotype.”
Activists are decrying Republicans who blame the immigration influx on an unbuilt wall in Laredo and other parts of South Texas. They’re “out-of-town politicians who are not from the border but are pro-wall, anti-immigrant, and in favor of violating the property rights of South Texans,” the group said.
Also last week, the first group of asylum-seekers from the Migrant Protection Protocols program was allowed in Laredo from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico by officials with the Department of Homeland Security. Some of the migrants had been waiting for over two years, according to Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and who rode with them over the bridge.
Pimentel appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday and said of the current influx: “It’s just families that are hopeful that entering the United States, they may be safe and that’s what they’re looking for. And it’s not … it’s not different. And that’s why we have so many children here at the border now again.”
“The root causes, why these families come are going to continue to come and we’re going to continue to see these surges and these great numbers of children, especially children, here at our border,” she said.
The Laredo coalition says the root causes of what is driving migrants north need to be addressed, and put into perspective because current migration numbers still are not exceeding numbers from the 2019 influx at the border.
“We need to start asking why we continue to call Black and brown people crossing the border a ‘crisis’ year after year instead of building a robust system that treats them with respect and dignity. We need federal dollars to modernize, not militarize, our border particularly at our ports-of-entry (international bridges),” the coalition said. “Furthermore, there is an urgency for real immigration reform and a solution that focuses on the countries of origin of these migrants to create safe living conditions and better educational and economic opportunities for their people.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.