MCALLEN, Texas – The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has settled on its agenda for the 88th Legislature and one of the items is border security.

However, the Chamber will not be pushing for more border security, says Chairman Stephan Wingert. Rather, it will be campaigning against the narrative that the border region is a dangerous place to live, work and play.

Stephan Wingert

Wingert announced the issues the McAllen Chamber will be focusing on during his monthly report to the McAllen Economic Development Corporation board of directors. He said the Chamber’s agenda will be presented to legislators during McAllen Day at the state Capitol. McAllen Day runs February 15-17.

“We are working on McAllen Day and we are excited about it. We have narrowed down our priorities. They include border security, water, workforce, education and health care workforce. I think when I say border security I’ve got to stop and say that we are only focused on the narrative that is coming to the Valley and so when people talk about border security and they think about making it tougher; the violence is really not a problem down here,” Winger told the MEDC board.

“We are trying to orchestrate a campaign against that. So, we are going to be talking a lot about that in Austin. We also have strategic issues that include affordable housing, Texas Economic Development Act Chapter 313, and the UTRGV School of Medicine funding along with funding the Texas A&M McAllen campus. We have a lot of things to talk to them about and we are going to have all those issues on our website.

“Speaking of our website, we have rebranded ourselves to some extent with different colors and logos and our website has been redone, so I encourage everyone to go check that out while they’re looking for our legislative priorities.”

The website address is The home page says the Chamber is “Leading the Region.” The Chamber’s position on border security is articulated on the website by former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. 

Here is the commentary penned by Darling:

Border Security Campaign

“Many have researched the safety of the U.S. Border Region and research continues to show its safety contrary to the belief about the insecurity of the U.S.-Mexico border and frequent claims for the need to secure the border to prevent the spread of violence into the rest of the country. Rarely are border residents asked how they feel about safety and crime, which could help explain the claims that the border is an insecure war zone posing a threat to the entire country.

Jim Darling

“Claims to secure (our) national border is common, and it gives negative perceptions of an unsafe border which is not supported by official crime rates and statistics, Border Patrol apprehensions, or the everyday experiences of people in cities along the U.S.- Mexico border. Data from a survey about perceptions of crime, sense of security and safety in neighborhoods and the city in general shows results that most border city residents feel safe.

“What continues to hurt the McAllen MSA is the “collateral damage” caused by this negative perception of McAllen and regional cities, but the low levels of violence show our area is safe. McAllen is 7th safest city in the nation, and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) showed McAllen was ranked second lowest in Texas for violent crimes.

“Although the anti-immigrant rhetoric, crime and immigration, perceptions of fear of crime continue, McAllen MSA residents do not display any sense of danger living within proximity to the border of Mexico. The high level of federal law enforcement agencies in our area helps deter criminal activity, but so do the increasing job opportunities in the U.S.

“In McAllen there is not a border security crisis, but a humanitarian crisis caused by violence abroad, family separation, and the encampment of asylum seekers in and outside the U.S.

“To address the effect of the state’s border security programs and the negative perception of the Valley being unsafe for tourism, employment and the general economic growth that the rest of the state of Texas is experiencing, we ask our elected officials to help us in the following manner:

  • Encourage public publicity for the Texas Border Region relating to the ‘immigration crisis’ and its negative effect on cities. 
  • Emphasize that Valley cities are the safest cities in the state of Texas according to both state and criminal statistics. 
  • Encourage leaders to recognize the “collateral effect” of the negative border safety rhetoric on cities.”

McAllen Day in Austin’s gold sponsors are: City of McAllen, McAllen International Airport, Anzalduas International Bridge, McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge, Visit McAllen, Rio Grande Regional Hospital, South Texas College, South Texas Health System, UT-Rio Grande Valley, McAllen ISD, and Quinta Mazatlan.

McAllen Day in Austin’s silver sponsors are: McAllen EDC, McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, DHR Health, IBC Bank, AEP Texas, Boggus Ford, and Texas A&M University.

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