EXCLUSIVE: White House and Texas lawmakers talk policy reform, its effects on the Borderland


An American and Texas flag are seen flying in front of the skyline of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez on July 18, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Progressive Democrats say they are working to restore dignity, order and humanity to the U.S.-Mexico border while also addressing this week’s devastating weather crisis across Texas.

KTSM 9 News spoke with members from the White House, U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature, who all say the goal is to revitalize border communities and streamline pathways toward citizenship.

“Border communities know better than anybody else the relationships you have with the other side of the border,” said Pili Tobar, White House communications director. 

President Joe Biden’s new immigration bill is making its way through Congress. If passed, the administration said it will be able to fulfill one of its priorities to restore places like El Paso that have been at the center of controversial immigration policies.

El Paso has seen first-hand the effects of family separation policies, migrants caged under bridges, and local families unable to travel to and fro.

“Making sure that we can bring back the life that border towns and border communities had up until this closed relationship with one of our closest allies, which is Mexico, and how folks operate on both sides of the border,” Tobar said.

The proposal was unveiled on Thursday in the U.S. Capitol and offers an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The White House stresses this process will take time.

“People looking to come to our border need to understand that they shouldn’t come right now. We are not letting people in in what would have been a normal way at this point in a year,” Tobar said. 

The immigration plan will also work to help the Biden administration restore the vitality of border communities that have been strained by policies implemented before and during the Trump administration, she said.

Democratic lawmakers at the federal and state levels are working to bring positive changes to the Borderland in addition to immigration reform. 

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, announced the creation of the Climate Crisis Advisory Committee (CCAC) that will provide El Pasoans an opportunity to develop recommendations to address the climate crisis. 

The CCAC will serve as a conduit for feedback to be given to Escobar, who will then use the information to help advance legislation in the U.S. Congress.

“The goal for me is to make sure I have goals, input, ideas and priorities that are coming from the community so that I can enact change at the federal level,” Escobar said at the committee’s launch on Thursday.

Escobar said the CCAC will encourage and enhance collaboration between state, local and private sector partners. 

Climate crisis in Texas has been top of mind as much of the state has suffered massive power and water outages pursuant to winter storms that the Texas power grid was unprepared for, said state Sen. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso.

“Millions of Texans still do not have electricity,” Blanco said. “Some of them are on their fifth day without power. About 7 million people are under boil water notices. One of my staff members has to melt snow on their stove to have water.”

Blanco said both the state Senate and House will be conducting hearings next week about the preparedness and circumstances that led to so much of Texas losing power.

El Paso was fortunate in that the Sun City was not affected by power outages or devastation like the rest of the state continues to endure.

Texas House Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody said El Paso’s good fortune is not dumb luck.

“We’ve spent years preparing our power infrastructure for weather like this, knowing it would come,” he said. “El Paso is clear proof that this wasn’t some disaster no one could’ve foreseen or prepared for. We did here.”

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