Posted on February 29, 2016

Valley Prepares for Next Wave of Central American Children

Mark Wiggins, KVUE (Austin), February 29, 2016


{snip} Some 260,000 people, mostly unaccompanied children from Central America, flooded across the border through the Rio Grande Valley. Congress called for legislation, then-Gov. Rick Perry mobilized a thousand National Guard troops, and the Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature pumped nearly a billion dollars into the Texas Department of Public Safety for border security.

That was more than a year and a half ago, and with everything that’s happened, the question is what–if anything–has changed?

“Much has changed. Our processes have changed and improved,” said Zamora. Agents of the RGV Sector man the front lines of the battle against drug trafficking and human smuggling. A massive new processing center in McAllen stands ready to hold up to a thousand people. A rare tour found it spotlessly clean and stocked with blankets and clothing–and as it happens, it may soon be needed.

“In the past few months the number of unaccompanied alien minors unlawfully entering the U.S. soared to over 17,000 and the number of family units increased to 21,000,” Chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) informed the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in a February 4 hearing on Capitol Hill. “If these trends continue it is predicted there will be a 30 percent increase in the record high numbers we witnessed in 2014.”

“They’re still coming, not in the same numbers,” Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia told KVUE in January. “I guess you could call it a mini-surge from Central America.”

Like many in the valley, Garcia argues the military presence is scaring off business, despite F.B.I. crime statistics that show McAllen with one of the lowest crime rates for a large U.S. city. Unlike law enforcement, Garcia believes the troops and military hardware, “Just creates a bad image, a negative image of our area which we don’t appreciate.”

He argues funding would be better spent on local law enforcement, and a better solution would be more judges and legal resources to quickly sort out who can stay and who must go.

“They’re saying, ‘Here we are.’ So you can add a thousand more folks there, but they’re not trying to evade you,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), whose district includes part of the valley, told KVUE on a January stop in Austin. {snip}