HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — On Wednesday McAllen Mayor Jim Darling spoke at a Texas Tribune virtual event, to discuss what the migration increase looks like at the border.
Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey mediated the discussion between Darling and Democratic U. S. Representative Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso.
When asked what the border needs to succeed short-term and long-term, he said that it needs more social workers, instead of DPS troopers.
“the social work could get done by the people who know how to do it, and [they can] send the border patrol back out to protect the border, like what they want to do and they’re paid and trained to do.”
Last week the mayor said that he received a call saying that the number of family units arriving a day would increase from 200 up to almost 700.
It’s been a little bit of a challenge, but we can handle it, we are ready for it,” he said. “We are partnering up with some other cities, and of course our main partnership with Catholic Charities.
Darling, who is also the chair for the Lower Rio Grande River Water Authority, Hidalgo-McAllen International Bridge Board, and Anzalduas International Bridge Board explained that this year is a bit different due to COVID-19, and the city has to do the testing and find quarantine spaces for the families that do test positive.
He explained that the city’s message is that they can handle the situation, unlike national news headlines calling it a “border chaos” or “crisis.” He said that although he hates to say it, the influx of migrants being called a “crisis” is a semantical argument
“It certainly was in Washington where they can’t resolve this issue, and for border patrol, it’s a crisis, but we’d like to say is that our city is still safe.”
The mayor took a moment to talk about the recent senator visits to the Rio Grande Valley.
“It’s really too bad that the Republicans go out on the riverboats and they look at all the armament and all that and democrats go to the centers where the kids are and they have their press conferences and go back to Washington and don’t talk to each other,” he said and added that its sad that they don’t settle the problem
When asked to describe what McAllen is seeing from the influx, Darling explained that this is the third time he has handled a migration influx. He added that all three have happened because of the rhetorics of presidents and cartels using those to rush people to the border.
He explained that the first one happened under former President Barack Obama, and his attempt to “fix immigration with DACA.” “The cartels used that to say ‘you better get [to the border] before it happens because otherwise, you won’t be eligible.”
The second migration increase happened when former president Donald Trump said he was going to shut down the borders, and migrants “rushed” before he “closed it.”
“This time President Biden says ‘well whatever it is it’s going to be good’ in his reform package, and everybody said ‘well you know you better get over there now too before that all acts’.”
The mayor recalled that in 2014, he met with the Mexican consulate and three central American consulates and came up with a “Trimex Plan.”
“It was a plan to address the criminal justice system, economic system, health care, and education systems in those three countries,” he explained. “We sent that to Washington and not much action, except sending money down ‘ in a billion dollars here it is you handle it’ instead of some real comprehensive change in Central America to address the underlying issues of why people are coming here.
When asked what the conditions are like at facilities that house asylum seekers, he replied by saying that they are overwhelmed with kids and that 72 hours isn’t enough time to process the asylum seekers and find a sponsor.
“I was surprised when, and I won’t be critical of anybody, but President Biden said ‘well you know it’s no surprise it happens every winter, it just didn’t happen because of me’ well that’s not necessarily true, it didn’t happen last winter.”
I just thought the administration could have been better prepared to handle this because when you talk to the border patrol people, they weren’t ready for it either.
When asked about the expected rise in migrants arriving, Darling said that the city of McAllen is focused on families and could handle a couple thousand a day. The pandemic is making the process a bit more difficult, and one of the major problems is getting busses to take them up north.
He added that processing and having people sent to the Mexico border creates more issues for Reynosa, Mexico, and then it becomes an international problem.
WATCH TH E FULL CONVERSATION BELOW: