SAN JUAN, Texas – Following resistance from their county judges, the communities of Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and El Paso have been removed from Gov. Greg Abbott’s “border crisis disaster delegation.”
The counties Abbott has omitted are El Paso, Webb, Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy.
The county judges of these counties would not declare their communities a disaster and would not agree topartner with the state in its border security efforts— including arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants for trespassing.
Resisting the governor, the judges said border security is a federal not a state issue.
News of the omission was announced in a news release from the Governor’s Office.
“Governor Greg Abbott has issued a revised disaster declaration in response to the border crisis, which provides more resources and strategies to combat the ongoing influx of unlawful immigrants,” the news release stated.
“Originally issued in late May for 34 counties along the border, theupdated declaration only includes the 28 counties that have locally declared a disaster and agreed topartner with the state on its border security efforts— including arresting and detaining people for crimes related to the border crisis.”
June 10, soon after declaring the border region a disaster, Abbott met with local sheriffs, police chiefs, county judges, mayors and district attorneys from border communities in Del Rio. There, he asked for their collaboration and partnership to secure the border, including building more border walls. If undocumented immigrants climbed over the state’s border walls, they would be arrested for trespassing, Abbott said.
Many leaders from smaller border counties said they would work with Abbott. Those from the more populous border counties said they would not.
“I am grateful for our local partners in our South Texas and border communities who are willing to work alongside the State to keep Texans safe and secure the border,” Abbott said, announcing his amended declaration.
“This amended declaration will ensure that resources and support are surged where they are needed most.”
Counties included in the revised disaster declaration are Brewster, Brooks, Crockett, Culberson, DeWitt, Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Goliad, Gonzales, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg, Kimble, Kinney, La Salle, Lavaca, Live Oak, Maverick, McMullen, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, and Zapata.
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera voiced concerns about Abbott’s border security plans.
“I am not a lawyer but I hear from lawyers that say that immigration law belongs to the feds, not to the state. The wall, or fence that he (Abbott) wants to build, my understanding is he wants to build it so he can charge undocumented people with trespassing. If there is no fence there is no trespassing,” Vera told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“Again, this is information I have received. The problem with that… and now he is threatening that if we don’t enforce it he is going to choke our state funding. I have an issue with that.”
The Texas Border Coalition, which includes communities from El Paso to Brownsville, also expressed concerns about Abbott’s plans.
“There are practical issues that will need to be overcome to implement the plans you have announced. The strategy to arrest border crosser for trespassing will need both complainants and jail space,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., chair of TBC.
“The strategy to build new border fencing will need both land and permits from multiple layers of government, from localities to the International Boundary and Water Commission. To be effective, any possible fencing will need to target those areas where it would be practical and effective.”
BTC wants immigration reform to focus in part on the so-called “push” factors that are forcing Central Americans to cross Mexico and seek asylum in the United States. Abbott has largely stayed silent on this.
“Until foundational issues that involve the push and pull of migration are addressed, this strategic approach (of the State of Texas building a new border wall) will continue to address only symptoms and not solve the problem,” Treviño said.
“Solutions should involve dealing with violence, poverty and corruption in the nations from which migrants are leaving. Comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law should provide for an effective guest worker program, an earned legalization program and a consistent humanitarian policy toward refugees and asylum seekers.”
News that the four countries in the Valley are out of Abbott’s disaster declaration has been welcomed by La Unión del Pueblo, a community group that supports undocumented immigrants.
“That means our pressure worked,” said LUPE spokesman John-Michael Torres. “This development comes after weeks of pressure, with over 1,200 residents of the RGV signing a petition to Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez and his counterparts in Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties. The community made this happen.”
Torres said LUPE wants to see the four Valley county judges “publicly defend their constituents from Abbott’s attacks.” He said it is “important to keep the governor in check.”
LUPE has a “border community town hall” meeting planned for June 30 in response to former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Valley on the same day. Abbott is slated to be with Trump during the trip. It includes a town hall meeting at South Texas International Airport in Edinburg, hosted by Fox News celebrity Sean Hannity.
“We sent the county judges formal invitations to join our town hall on Wednesday. None of them have yet confirmed,” Torres said.
LUPE’s town hall meeting will take place at its San Juan offices started at 9 a.m.
Juanita Valdez-Cox, LUPE’s executive director, said: “While border communities are no strangers to the governor’s inhumane politics, Governor Abbott’s latest declarations and partnership with former President Trump are a dangerous escalation that will only lead to more harm against us and those seeking safety at our county’s doorstep.”
Valdez-Cox added: “The nation’s eyes are on Texas for what seems to be failure after failure to uphold the rights of its residents or to keep us safe. It’s unconscionable that the governor is wasting attention and resources to stir hate rather than focus on the urgent issues, such as fixing the state’s power grid. We must defend our values of being a strong and welcoming community, not a political playground for those who want to cause us harm.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holding his border crisis disaster declaration at a border summit in Del Rio, Texas, on June 10.
Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!
Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled.
Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!