DEL RIO, Texas, Sept. 21 (Reuters) – Many residents of the Texan border town of Del Rio have been saying for months that they feel abandoned by the federal government when border arrests have reached 20-year highs.
Now, with some 16,000 refugee migrants in precarious conditions under the international bridge connecting Del Rio with the Mexican city of Acuña, resentment is getting worse.
On Friday night, a local lawyer posted a post on Facebook saying local school district buses were transporting migrants, mostly Haitians, to processing facilities.
“THE SAME BUSES OUR CHILDREN WILL RIDE ON MONDAY !!!!” Jacques De La Mota wrote alongside images of a yellow school bus apparently picking up migrants in the dark.
De La Mota’s post was shared at least 1,400 times and received more than 300 comments, many from local residents saying they were worried about the disease. But some shouted what they said was barely racism. “This message gives me segregation vibes,” he read a comment.
The local school district superintendent issued a statement explaining that only two buses had been deployed, which are not currently used to transport students.
De La Mota told Reuters he was simply concerned about health and was angry that the district was hired to help solve a federal problem.
The uproar over school buses is just one example of immigration discontent in this city of 35,000 people, where 85% of the community is Hispanic and the nearby Laughlin Air Force Base is a big business.
Many residents are also furious at the closure of the international bridge, ordered on Friday due to the crowd of migrants, which inflicts economic pain on both sides of the border.
A small group protested on Saturday, with a woman waving a sign that read “BIDEN BORDER CRISIS.” A Reuters reporter saw a black van crossing the city with a “FUCK BIDEN” flag. Another driver, who crossed the bridge when it was still open last week, looked down at the crowded migrants and complained that Del Rio residents could also move to Mexico.
LEGALITY OF THE BACK FOOT
Val Verde County, which has its county seat in Del Rio, bet on Donald Trump on Joe Biden by a ten-point margin in the 2020 election, with some approving its hard-line immigration policies . The mayor of Del Rio, Bruno Lozano, has had no hesitation in calling his fellow Democrat president.
“Where is your plan to protect American communities on the southern border?” Lozano tweeted on Saturday. “I spoke with Governor Abbott today. We have developed a temporary plan. We would like to see yours.”
Arguing that Biden’s promise of a more “humane” approach to migration has galvanized the crossings, Republican Greg Abbott has been repressed.
Among his measures: arresting immigrants for alleged violations of private property and preparing to build part of the border wall that Trump promised, the construction of which stopped Biden.
Abbott, who faces government primaries in March, has been criticized for his response to a devastating February storm and for his treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic. James Henson, director of The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, noted that the border issue could be a big help to him and to Republicans.
“It’s a good topic for Republicans, as it delves into the growing nativist sentiment of the Texas Republican Party,” Henson said.
De La Mota, himself a descendant of Mexicans who emigrated several generations ago, is a registered Democrat who said the border crisis means Biden can no longer automatically count on his vote. “It makes me reconsider what I would do in the next cycle,” he said.
School board member Joshua D. Overfelt, who wrote in a statement opposing the bus request because it was not guaranteed that migrants would not carry “multiple illnesses,” said that while he sympathized asylum seekers, this had to be balanced with the feeling of invasion by residents.
He recalled his father’s fright in May when he entered his barn toward his tractor and discovered 13 Mexican migrants hiding there.
“The community is just stuck in the middle,” he told Reuters.
Of course, there are also residents in Del Rio who mobilize to help migrants.
About 35 locals volunteer at Del Rio’s only facility to care for migrants, said Tiffany Burrow, director of operations. Burrow said there are “misconceptions” in the community about his work, including the false assumptions the organization pays for migrant trips to the United States.
“We don’t focus so much on the political aspect, but on the idea of helping our neighbor,” Burrow said. “When you do it for that reason, it’s not so controversial.”
Written by Alexandra Ulmer Edited by Sonya Hepinstall
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