MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Economic Development Corporation stands ready to help Central American migrants traveling north in caravans through Mexico find work in the maquiladoras of Reynosa.

Keith Patridge, president of McAllen EDC, and Ralph Garcia, the group’s vice president for international business recruitment, have met with Mexico’s consul in McAllen, Eduardo Bernal Martínez to discuss the matter. 

MEDC board members learned of the potential project at a meeting on Thursday.

“I want to share with you that Keith and Ralph met this week with Mexican Consul (Eduardo) Bernal about the possibility of Mexico issuing work visas to the Central American immigrants that are currently traveling through Mexico,” said MEDC Executive Vice President Jamie Sepulveda.

“So, we would work with the maquila companies to interview (migrants) and potentially provide jobs. We are going to see if Mexico is potentially willing to do this.”

Sepulveda pointed out that there are currently 13,000 vacancies in Reynosa’s maquiladoras. 

“This could potentially help the companies and the city of Reynosa to provide opportunities for these folks as they are traveling through the country, to give them an opportunity to work and live in Reynosa,” Sepulveda said. 

Enrique Castro is president of INDEX Reynosa, a trade association for the maquiladora industry. Castro was at the McAllen EDC board meeting. 

“We have been talking with Eduardo (Bernal). There is a migrant problem. Right now they have moved to Tijuana. We know we could have some good people, potentially available to hire, so we are considering that as an association,” Castro told the MEDC board of directors.

Interviewed Friday by the Rio Grande Guardian, Bernal, Mexico’s consul in McAllen, confirmed that he has held talks about utilizing Central American migrants in Reynosa’s maquilas.

“First of all we have to see if they want to work in the maquilas. They are traveling north to live in the United States. They don’t want to stay in Mexico. We are just a crossing point,” Bernal said.

“We have to check if the migrants have the documents to be here and then we have to give them a work visa. If they have both of these, the companies can hire them.”

Bernal said many people in the caravans will not have the correct documentation to be in Mexico. “If Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala can get us the documents, we can help. López Obrador said he would help. But it is not easy,” Bernal said.

According to a report from the national INDEX organization, maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border are short 65,000 workers. Bernal said he realizes the maquiladora companies are desperate for more workers. However, he said many potential workers can be found in the middle of Mexico.

“There could be a million or so workers in the middle of Mexico that need a good job. They (the maquilas) need to go to the middle of Mexico and offer them a job.”

That said, Bernal recognized that many of the migrants on the caravans would be suitable for work in the maquilas. 

“It would be a good opportunity for them. Better pay, better working conditions, a better life. I think the women in the caravan would be good for the maquilas. And remember, López Obrador did offer to help them find jobs.”

Asked why the first caravan is heading towards California, rather than South Texas, Bernal said: “California is a more friendly place and it is not as dangerous. Our view is, we have to take care of them. The people of Mexico are very humanitarian. We are going to take care of them, with lots of organizations sending food and clothes, to support their human rights.”

If later caravans do come to South Texas, the local economy could be impacted, Bernal warned.

“It will affect the 10,000 people who legally cross every day. It will affect McAllen, Hidalgo and Reynosa. We want to keep the migrants together. We do not want the bad people to get hold of them.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Central American migrants taking part in a caravan headed for the United States. (AFP Photo/Guillermo Arias)