MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen, Texas, has been trending on social media for the past week due to the separation of immigrant families and it is not helping the city’s image, says a Canadian commentator.

Prior Smith has been broadcasting news from home to Canadians throughout Florida, California, south Texas and the Bahamas during the winter months for the past 33 years. His show, titled Canada Calling, is broadcast every weekday during the winter months on Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88 FM.

Smith told 88 FM presenter Mario Munoz that he has seen McAllen mentioned on nearly every news media outlet in Canada for the past couple of weeks. Many Canadians travel south during the winter and the publicity McAllen’s been getting may hinder Canadians from visiting the Rio Grande Valley, Smith said.

“Unfortunately, what has happened over the last little while, and I don’t want to get into the politics of it, obviously, as a Canadian, but over the past couple of weeks, it seems every time I turn on the radio, every time I turn on the television, you open up a newspaper, all you see is the word McAllen. And, unfortunately, once you get into the story you realize that nothing much that is being talked about McAllen is good these days,” Smith said.

“Sadly, I suspect this is going to be a major body blow for the region’s economy because, after all, for a number of months during the winter, every winter, the region depends on tourism from up north–not just from Canada, but from the northern U.S. and all over the place.

“When you have negative news like this hour after hour, day after day and week after week it obviously doesn’t augur well for the region’s economy. So, hopefully something can be done to clean things up at least temporarily until the region can get back on its feet.”

McAllen EDC Perspective

Smith’s remarks mirrors the comments of Brandon Garcia, marketing consultant to McAllen Economic Development Corporation. In comments made to the EDC’s board of directors this week, Garcia said immigrant children being separated from their families at the border and the detention areas they are being sent to is dominating social media in ways he has never seen before.

Brandon Garcia

“It’s affecting all sorts of perceptions–people are saying, ‘I’m from McAllen and I’ve never been so ashamed before’, so there’s a set back I think we’re going to have to deal with,” Garcia said. “We’re working on some basic stuff on social media we can put out there just to give people the impression that McAllen is a place of passion and care without diving into politics. It’s a tricky path.”

Keith Patridge, president of McAllen EDC, also mentioned other instances of McAllen receiving negative publicity such as the ongoing violence in Mexico. He said there were a series of “headwinds” his organization is having to navigate.

In his remarks to the McAllen EDC board of directors, INDEX Reynosa President Enrique Castro said he remained optimistic. He agreed with Garcia that the commentary on social media right now is not complimentary. INDEX Reynosa is the trade association for the maquildora industry.

In response to the separation of families issue, Castro believes the key is maintaining a good relationship and decent communication on both sides of the border.

“On social media, and I am glad that you (Garcia) mentioned that, we will continue throwing that image that we are working and that we are really concerned, but also we are very optimistic to continue working,” Castro said.

“That’s the way we’ve been doing it in the past. It’s not the first time that we have a situation like this. We just try to throw everything positive.”

Castro said he has been in contact with Mexico’s Consul in McAllen. “He has been handling that (separation of families) very well. He says we need to continue to have that close relationship with Mexico and the U.S. to help each other.”

City of Brownsville Perspective

On a posting on Facebook, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, offered these remarks:

“As most of us in our community are well aware, there has been an overwhelming amount of publicity about families being torn apart on the pretext that it should be a deterrent from seeking asylum from their countries of origin due to violence creating life threatening situations in their homeland.

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez

“Some of those children have ended up within shelters located in our city. Unfortunately, that kind of news coverage is, to say the least, unwelcomed and should not be misconstrued. As a family known as the City of Brownsville we neither condone nor endorse such policies. As a matter of fact it is contrary to our values and beliefs as a community who welcomes our human family as brothers and sisters which we are and will always be.

“Times like this make us feel helpless and hopeless that there is not a magic remedy at our fingertips. But we must not despair. We must make our voices heard. We must stand up for our values and hold steady that we shall overcome.

“As a nation we have had many troubling times and challenges that seem to be destroying the fabric of our democracy. But, just as in those times we must all call on our better angels of our nature, as Lincoln said, and prove to ourselves and the world that we as a community are better than this. We will seek and find a remedy that will prevail over the inhumane behavior that our present administration is pursuing. We have heard all the condemnations, we have heard all the sound bites, we have heard all the divisiveness that is being promulgated by this action. Thus far it has fallen on deaf ears.

“So, what must we do I say to you as a City that we all love, we must stand united, voice our values and take every opportunity to seek a solution for these children and in the meantime figure out a way to tell these children and their families that we stand by them and will fight to make sure they are reunited and in the meanwhile find out what we can do to comfort and love them as the brother and sisters that they are.”