MCALLEN, Texas – The Democratic Party’s chances of holding on two key congressional seats in the Rio Grande Valley will be severely dented if President Biden does not reopen land ports of entry to Mexican visa holders soon.

This is the view of public policy advocate and veteran broadcaster Ron Whitlock, who has been pushing to have the border bridges fully opened for months. The bridges were closed to so-called “non-essential” travel in March 2020, in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Whitlock is spearheading plans for a COVID-19 vaccination pilot project in which visa holders from Matamoros are allowed to come into downtown Brownsville to get their coronavirus shots.

“I cannot believe we have had a change in administration, from President Trump to President Biden, and still Biden refuses to do anything about our land ports of entry. Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the border bridges can be reopened safely. Why is it not happening?” Whitlock asked.

“If President Biden thinks he is going to keep his Democratic Party relevant here on the border, you would think he would react. Because the Republicans, they are determined, they are going to try to take these two congressional seats away from the Democrats. Yet, President Biden is doing nothing about opening up our economy. We need our Mexican shoppers back. We need our family members back.”

The Republican National Committee has targeted Congressional District 15 and Congressional District 34, both anchored in the Valley and both held by Democrats. If they can capture these districts in the 2022 mid-term elections, it could be difference in the GOP taking back the House of Representatives.

Whitlock said he cannot believe the inconsistency being shown by the Biden Administration when it comes to allowing Mexican visa holders the chance to visit the United States in order to get their COVID vaccination.

Such tourists can fly into the United States and get their coronavirus shot without difficulty. But Mexican visa holders living on the border are being prevented from crossing land ports of entry to do the same thing. 

Whitlock noted that the City of Laredo is even marketing flights from Mexico City to its city for just this purpose. 

“It is a smart move by Laredo. They have received approval from the federal government and the state government to do this, to market their city in Mexico City as a destination for COVID-19 vaccines,” Whitlock said.

“Why can’t we do the same at our land ports of entry? Why can’t we let Matamoros residents cross the Gateway Bridge and get their COVID shots in downtown Brownsville? Half the families in Matamoros have relatives on our side of the river. We should be helping them first, before the residents of Mexico City.”
Whitlock said it is not the first time the border region has not been treated fairly by the national government.

“This has been going on my entire life. Distrito Federal in Mexico City does not get it. It does not understand the border. And Washington, D.C., tambien. Washington does not get the border, and does things that are absolutely idiotic and stupid and unbelievable. That as been going on for as long as I have been working in the broadcasting business.”

The only difference between Washington D.C. and D.F., Whitlock said, is Mexico corrects course more quickly when it is wrong. 

“For example, if the federal government in Mexico City says, effective this day you are going to have a particular sticker, otherwise you cannot get beyond the checkpoint, the government puts out the word, and then the day it produces turmoil at the border and the economy is shut down, within two days, Mexico City goes, okay, forget it, it does not work, it is not a good idea and they stop it,” Whitlock said. 

He contrasted this with what happens in Washington, D.C.

“If Congress or the White House does something stupid like that, they never go back. They don’t. Mexico City gets it. They understand quicker and they respond quicker.”

Whitlock said in his experience the border region has always been saddled with the failures of Washington, D.C., and Mexico City. 

“Like the mayor of South Padre Island said, the decision to keep the bridges closed to our neighbors and family to the south, legitimate visa holders, is insane. But, I have seen it all before and now it is happening again.”

Whitlock’s pilot project to help Matamoros residents get the COVID vaccine in Downtown Brownsville came up doing a news conference held at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on Wednesday, June 2. The news conference was hosted by U.S. Sens. Jon Cornyn of Texas and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Tony Gonzales of San Antonio.

In response to a question on when the border bridges will be reopened, Cornyn said: “We want to do this responsibly. We are asking the administration for a transition plan from this ban on anything other than essential trade and traffic. We want to know, how do we transition safely from Title 42 back to reopening our border, which is, I believe, safe and open for business.”

Whitlock responded: “I have a transition plan,” and proceeded to explain it to the lawmakers.

After he had heard an overview of Whitlock’s idea, Cornyn said: “I think it makes perfect sense for us to use the excess vaccines that we do not need here in the United States to help our friends in Mexico and elsewhere around the world.”

Viewpoints of Nixon and Mendez

Dennis E. Nixon
Dennis E. Nixon

Another supporter of reopening the biordges to all Mexican visa holders is IBC Bank President Dennis E. Nixon. He told Ron Whitlock Reports: “The United States is prepared to give millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to countries far away from us. Why would we not want to vaccinate folks next door who add great value to our economy and are our friends and neighbors and, in many cases, our family members? The border communities are one city in two countries. We cannot be separated and flourish. Open the border to the so-called non-essential visitors.”

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez said he is ready for his city to vaccinate Mexican visa holders against COVID-19, if the federal government either approves the Whitlock pilot project or opens up ports of entry in general.

“I think we need to immunize as many people as possible. We have seen that the demand for vaccines was extremely high initially. Now we are seeing really slow going when it comes to immunizing people. So, I am totally fine with people coming into Brownsville and getting vaccinated. I have no issue with that,” Mendez said.

“It is clear to me that many people in Brownsville have family members in Mexico that come over regularly. So I do think it will have a positive public health impact, to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Mendez noted that having the residents of Matamoros fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not only improve public health but also the Brownsville economy.

“Just having more tourists and more people being able to travel into the United States in general from Mexico is going to be positive. We have seen the negatives of that over the last year or so and we are ready to have them back and I have been advocating for that on a federal level as well,” Mendez said.

Mendez said it is well over due for land ports of entry to be reopened for Mexican visa holders.

“I have been advocating for the reopening of the bridges for the last couple of months as well and I could not give you any reason why that has not been done,” he said.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Ron Whitlock asking a question of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar at a news conference held at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

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