MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says the UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine is having a difficult time recruiting staff because potential hires think the region is unsafe.

The school of medicine is attempting to recruit people from all over the country, however, Darling says potential hires are not getting a very positive message about the area. One example is a speaker for one of McAllen’s Economic Development Corporation programs was advised not to go to McAllen because four people told her the area was not safe.

“You have people that need to bring their [family] down and you want to make sure the area is safe,” Darling said “However, this area has a continuous controversy going on and it’s misdirecting [as well as] confusing to the person that doesn’t live here. It affects us from a negative standpoint [because] they only get glimpses of it.”

According to another article from the Rio Grande Guardian, President Donald Trump had plans to further militarize the region by sending the National Guard to the border. However, Darling says they are not sending in people to protect cities on the border.

“We’re doing it to supplement the federal government and the border patrol for border issues, but not for violence in our cities because they are safe cities,” Darling said. “That has to be a positive thing because the impression is if you say nothing then you’re sending them down to protect all of us along the border. That is not true and it’s damaging.”

Darling has previously said the state government should invest in tourism promotion for the Rio Grande Valley to compensate for the negative image portrayed when the National Guard is deployed in the region.

Darling gave his exclusive interview to the Rio Grande Guardian after attending a news conference hosted by Congressman Henry Cuellar at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. The news conference was called to discuss the Trump Administration’s policy of separating Central American families when they show up at the border without the proper documentation.

Cuellar introduced Darling at the tail end of the news conference and pivoted from immigration to tourism.

“The number of people coming across from Mexico has decreased, I am talking about the tourists. It is affecting our restaurants, it is affecting our hotels and this is why this NAFTA situation, which the president keeps delaying, is having a negative impact. Not only on trade but legitimate tourism and retail, which is so important for our local economy,” Cuellar said.

Darling responded:

“Not only south of the border but also north of the border, with all the DPS and National Guard. People think it is unsafe to come to McAllen. From Texas and all over the United States and it is affecting our ability to recruit for our medical school, it is affecting us in a negative way when we are one of the safest cities along the border and the whole country. When they send the National Guard they should say, they are not here to protect the cities. It is causing us significant, tangible damage.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Darling said that, in his opinion, the U.S. government should do more to help Central American countries battling drug cartels.

“I think if I was in Central America facing some of the things that they’re facing because of our failed foreign policy and our drug habits of fueling of cartels… they make more money than we’re spending in prevention, you know… do unto what’s what you want to be done,” Darling said.

Darling added: “Let’s put money behind the sustenance of foreign policy, sustenance of due process or a policy that makes sense. And two wrongs don’t make a right. We keep saying, ‘Clinton did this or Obama did that,’ but it doesn’t mean it’s right because the predecessor did it. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Do the right thing and don’t use an excuse or a blame for the other side when you’re at fault too.”