I recently visited the Texas border at Eagle Pass, Texas with two other Christian women and the assistance of State Representative Eddie Morales, Jr. Our purpose was to see the border firsthand and explore how our faith community could help with the humanitarian crisis, particularly for women and children.
We met with the Texas Border Patrol officers, U.S. Immigration Service officers, and a Methodist minister who runs a church inside an Eagle Pass mission that houses migrants with valid asylum claims. Here is what I observed and learned.
A record number of migrants, mainly women with children, are fleeing extreme violence, murder, torture, and persecution in their native countries, some walking thousands of miles to the Texas border. The river crossing at the Rio Grande, separating Eagle Pass from Piedras Negras, poses a danger due to a strong current and the migrants' limited swimming abilities, especially the children.
U.S. Customs and Patrol heavily monitor migrants crossing the river in Eagle Pass. Once on American soil, migrants are immediately arrested by federal immigration authorities and sent to a federal prison immigration facility outside of Eagle Pass. There, they undergo processing, background checks, and are housed in a tent city prison facility until their asylum claims are determined.
Approximately 80-85% of migrants in this facility are deported due to failed background checks or rejected asylum claims. The remaining 15-20% who are allowed to leave go to Mission Border Hope, a non-profit mission in Eagle Pass, where they receive support from the Eagle Pass community, until they can find transportation to their host families while their asylum claims are pending. However, the U.S. immigration court system is underfunded and backlogged with over a million cases, causing severe delays in processing their asylum claims. As a result, these migrants are severely limited in their ability to work and are forced to work in the shadows to survive while their asylum claims are pending. Mission Border Hope provides humanitarian aid, but does not receive support from outside organizations. There have been no Texas faith-based communities that have offered humanitarian assistance to the families in this mission.
A "border wall" definitely exists in Eagle Pass, Texas, consisting of railroad box cars and sharp concertina wire along the Rio Grande shoreline. Migrants crossing the Rio Grande are arrested by U.S. Immigration officers, who must cut through the wire to make the arrests. During our visit, we went to Shelby Park, which was at that time “ground zero” for the federal immigration authorities in Eagle Pass, since it has a boat ramp that gives the immigration officers immediate access to the Rio Grande. However, federal immigration officers have been blocked from accessing Shelby Park and the boat ramp by the State of Texas. Recently, a mother and her two children drowned while trying to cross the river, and the federal immigration officers claim they were prevented from saving them due to Texas' blockage. This situation at the Texas border is like having two police officers arguing over how to address a call for help.
Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all agree that our immigration laws need to be revised. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is proposing legislation to fix this problem, fully fund the U.S. Border Patrol, and provide additional personnel to our Immigration Court system to process asylum claims faster. They are also proposing substantive changes to our immigration laws. We should demand that our representatives work together to solve this national security and humanitarian crisis. Good governance occurs when parties work together to fix our broken laws and solve this problem. If you don't like what is happening at the border, demand that our U.S. Congressmen and Senators work together to fix this broken system and end this national security crisis. This must happen during this election year because it is a national crisis and only politicians dedicated to solving this problem deserve to be elected.
Candidate for the Texas House of Representatives, HD 56
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