SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos has re-emphasized the point that his city is not in the middle of a war zone and does not have undocumented immigrants rampaging through its streets.

Villalobos spoke at a recent Texas Border Coalition quarterly board meeting held on South Padre Island. He said he has to constantly counter stereotypical portrayals made in the national media.

“McAllen is doing excellent. Our projected revenues are up, our tax base is increasing. We are now the sixth safest city in the country and second best for violent crimes in the state of Texas. McAllen is doing great,” Villalobos said, in response to a reporters question about the health and robustness of his city’s economy. 

“And the reason I say McAllen is doing great is because a lot of the times you see the national media, because of the immigration issue, say that we are a War Zone. Whenever I talk to them (the national media) I always make it a point to tell them how great we are doing. How our economy is doing. Our budget, everything.”

One person that is forever saying the southern border is in “chaos” is state Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin, Texas. He appears regularly on Fox saying he has never seen anything like it.  

Villalobos, pictured above, said he challenges national reporters and TV pundits to come and visit his city.

“I challenge them. Go look for an immigrant in McAllen. You are not going to find one. It does not work that way. What happens is, the City of McAllen, the issues we have and we do have issues but everything is pretty much done at the Anzalduas Bridge.”

By this, Villalobos meant that Border Patrol processes migrants and asylum seekers at Anzalduas Park. He said they are never let loose in the city of McAllen and that once processed, the migrants and asylum seekers are on their way, usually by bus to their preferred destination.

Villalobos acknowledged, however, that things could change because of the planned ending of Title 42. 

Title 42 is slated to end in late May. The order allows the U.S. government to block the entry of foreigners who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease is present. Use of the rule has allowed both the Trump and Biden administrations to ignore the pleas of refugees and asylum seekers.

According to federal government projections, the suspension of Title 42 could lead to a surge of undocumented migration from Mexico, with as many as 18,000 migrants crossing per day.

Villalobos referred to Title 42 this way: “Now we get into the political issue. Once they lift Section 42, we may run into some problems. I think you all know, I sent a letter to the president telling him, stall the lifting of Section 42. And then you get into an issue, that is a health issue, not an immigration issue. Which is true. But (having) it (in place) is beneficial to us.”

Villalobos said all bets are off if Title 42 is lifted.

“Probably, by the end of this month we are going to be in the national news like you wouldn’t believe. It depends what happens in the court.”

Villalobos added: “I keep on saying and I ask you all to help us to tell the people in the whole country that the Rio Grande Valley is safe, it is doing great, and it is a great place to live.”

Those in the audience applauded when Villalobos said this. 

Earlier, Villalobos had participated in a TBC panel discussion with leaders from other parts of the Texas-Mexico border. 

Villalobos said when COVID-91 hit, the McAllen leadership was fearing the worst. “We knew the numbers (of visitors from Mexico) were going to go down. Always felt the numbers would go down. He said that for the first two months, during the lockdown, the sale tax revenues were down. 

However, from that point onwards, the numbers started to rise. He said the sales tax revenues being recorded today should that “we are self sustaining.”

“We had a lot of deaths. It was horrible. But now, we have a $551 million increase in our tax base. It is incredible.”

Villalobos also pointed to the success the City of McAllen and McAllen Economic Development Corporation has had in landing India-based software giant, Zoho.

Villalobos said Zoho would not be in McAllen if it did not have an educated workforce. He said he hopes the success in attracting the company will lead other high tech companies to look at relocating in the Valley.

Villalobos ended his remarks by saying how Valley EDCs are now thinking regionally. He pointed out that many of SpaceX’s employees live in Hidalgo County but travel to the Boca Chica rocket launch site. “We do not have to be competitive any more. We can work together,” Villalobos said, stating that Valley leaders must react to what the needs of an incoming company are.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos speaking at a quarterly meeting of the Texas Border Coalition. It was held at the South Padre Island Convention Center on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo credit: Ron Whitlock/Ron Whitlock Reports)

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