EDINBURG, Texas – The Texas Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate, MJ Hegar, says she is kept awake at night thinking about migrant children being separated from their parents. 

Lawyers representing civil rights groups say they have not been able to reach the parents of 545 children that were separated from their families under the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy. The policy was ended in 2018 after a national outcry.

At a campaign rally in Edinburg on Saturday, Hegar took a question about the policy from The Rio Grande Guardian.

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do to keep my kids safe and to make a better life for them. I think we need more people in office that understand that and to treat asylum seekers from our southern border the same way we treat asylum seekers from other countries,” Hegar said.

Hegar said it was unconscionable for the Trump administration to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children.

“I think we should immediately end family separation. I think we should throw the full weight and power of our country… are we the leaders of the free world? Can we please throw the full weight of our country behind finding the families of the 545 kids that are still separated from their families,” Hegar said.

“It is egregious, it is incomprehensible to me, the lack of competence on the part of the people who responsible for this. It is damaging to our nation and to our national security. We are the leaders of the free world because we are the land of opportunity and we are denying opportunity to people left and right every chance we get, even our own citizens.”

It was put to Hegar that Texas’ two U.S. Senators have not said much about the separation of families even though many of the migrants who suffered such a fate were in detention in South Texas. Asked, if elected, whether she would speak out, Hegar said: “I speak out about ending family separation as often as I can. When I am awake at two o’clock in the morning it is because I am thinking of family separation.”

The campaign rally in Edinburg was held at the Memorial Event Center. Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, was present, as were many party stalwarts from across the Rio Grande Valley. Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Norma Ramirez was emcee.

In her speech, Hegar promised servant leadership.

“For God’s sake, do not forget me when I win this election because I need you to hold me accountable and to help me lead and legislate and to finally deliver servant leadership and representation to the state because I don’t have someone I can go to and say, show me how you’ve been doing this. Because those people haven’t been in office for decades,” Hegar said.

Hegar is a decorated U.S. Air Force veteran. Invoking her military service, Hegar said there is a mission that needs to be fulfilled.

“The mission is not to fight each other. The mission is not self interest and ambition. The mission is not wealthy special interests and corporate donors. The mission is the person centered in the conversation we are having. The mission is the kids that are still in cages or separated from their families. The mission are the people who are contracting this disease. The mission are the people who cannot go get a COVID test because they don’t have access to healthcare. That is the mission.”

Canales: Hegar knows the needs of South Texas

State Rep. Terry Canales

State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg was one of those at the campaign rally who spoke forcibly in support of Hegar. 

“Everybody should be entitled to the American Dream. That is what MJ Hegar stands for,” Canales said.

Canales said he and his family were having a weekend break on South Padre Island when he received a call from Hegar. He said he spoke with her for 45 minutes as he walked the beach. He said his wife asked him who he was speaking to. Canales said, “the next senator of Texas.” The audience cheered.

“I was going to explain to her (Hegar) what we need in South Texas and what South Texas needed from her. I didn’t have to. She knew. She knew we needed a veteran’s hospital. She knew we needed a senator who cared more about getting water rights for the Rio Grande than taking gunboat rides for photo ops. She knows we need somebody that can stand up, not cower or be a coward to the president of the United States.”

Canales said Trump was a “bigot.” He said it is inconsistent with American values to put migrant kids in cages. He also praised Hegar’s military service. Canales said that when he was listening to a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner the last line resonated. He said “And the Home of the Brave” conjured up an image of Hegar, a decorated U.S. Air Force veteran.

“Home of the Brave: a war veteran that went down in combat, John Cornyn is not brave, he is sheep, he is a follower, and when you can’t stand up to the president because… he said he did not stand up to him on this (border) wall thing because he wanted to stay quiet. No, you stayed cowardly, bud. That is what you did.”

Canales also railed against those who call the border region a war zone.

“It is not a war zone, it is a trade zone. We don’t need a wall. What we need is more border infrastructure to facilitate the trade that is the economic engine of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Canales said the Valley feeds the rest of the United States. “So goes the Rio Grande Valley, so goes the United States,” he added.

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