meEdward Márquez, the father of my classmate as a child, became a hero of the border community in 1994 when, as an El Paso state district judge, he initiated a rare legal maneuver that resonated along the border. between Texas and Mexico. Fed up with a long history of disparate state funding and services to the border communities of the state capital in Austin, he convened a criminal investigation court, a weapon in the legal arsenal that is available when a judge has evidence that a prosecutor does not he fulfilled pursuing a criminal case and justice was not being served.
In this case, it was evidence of historical neglect by Texas border communities. The unprecedented court of inquiry highlighted funding disparities for border communities, such as an allocation of $ 43 per capita to El Paso in state highway funding compared to up to $ 220 per capita for other Texas cities. State leaders were summoned to testify about the funding disparities, always with the threat that Judge Márquez had the power to indict them if he found convincing evidence that they had violated the rights of border residents under the state’s equal protection clause.
Ultimately, an embarrassed Democratic administration, led by then-Governor Ann Richards, ensured that additional funding went to border cities like El Paso and that Judge Marquez’s legacy was grounded in history.
The political reality that the judge brought to national attention nearly three decades ago, however, continues to plague border communities and has created an uncomfortable political paradox: Communities need the attention of state and national legislators to highlight massive problems of poverty. , health problems and educational achievement. But whenever this region attracts international attention, that attention has little to do with these social issues and a lot to do with the heated debate over immigration.
Unfortunately, this paradox is as old as the border itself and fuels negative stereotypes about the security of this region, while also acting as an economic drag. In 2016, McAllen, in South Texas, was selected by an amateur sports federation to host a two-year state competition that typically draws thousands of young athletes. Texas cities are yearning to host the event because as many as 20,000 or more parents and children show up to watch and compete, all while generating large hotel and food bills that contribute to the local economy.
But before the Texas Games started that year, South Texas learned that parents in different parts of the state were concerned about border violence. While Mexican drug cartels are often listed as the main source of concern, another surge in immigration was underway. Word spread that some parents were even talking about hosting spinoff games in North Texas to avoid having to expose their families to betrayal by the South Texas border areas.
Community leaders launched a counteroffensive, writing columns for newspapers in other parts of the state and promising to show the family spirit of the region. Parents who braved the trip to South Texas left that first year in awe of the local hospitality, and any widespread concerns about the dangers of the region seemed to disappear the following year.
Almost every year, Democratic Border Congressman Henry Cuellar issues a press release following the annual release of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report to demonstrate the safety of border communities relative to other Texas cities and the nation.
But too often, elected officials looking for an opportunity to snap snapshots politicize the border instead of serving the needs of their communities. The local joke is that if you’re a Republican, a tour of the border requires a trip down the Rio Grande in a state-owned armored gunboat (Federal vessels look much less sinister and rarely make the cut from the photo shoot). But if you’re a Democrat, the border tour involves a must-see and be seen at a local facility that provides humanitarian services to migrants.
When then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan visited the border in 2017, federal authorities approached landowners along the Rio Grande to ask them to keep the media off their property, trying unsuccessfully to do private a large strip of international border.
Sometimes these border tours are best viewed with a sense of lightness. A must-see is the county-owned Anzalduas Park, a bird-watching paradise on the banks of the Rio Grande, offering a magnificent view of Mexico. When President Trump visited in January 2019, US Customs and Border Protection assisted with all their glorious mechanized anti-immigrant vehicles on display.
But it is Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn (in his favor, a frequent visitor to the border community) who will live in infamy after visiting the park to denounce the dangers of immigration in front of the media cameras. His timing was a bit off; As he spoke, reporters witnessed the launch from the Mexican coast of a double-decker party boat down the beautiful river, accompanied by festive music.
Trump’s most recent visit to the border, in June, shows how deceptive such tours can be. McAllen’s newly elected mayor was the only local elected official to walk the wall with Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just beyond the wall and the dangers of migrants were mentioned.
For business and political leaders along the border, these visits offer little solution and only serve to further inflame passions for immigration. In a rare moment when a large group of US senators allowed a local elected official to speak about the community, the official urged members of Congress to review existing immigration laws because the current system does not work.
“We can’t do that until we stop these immigrants from crossing,” a senator told the local official. And that particular border tour soon ended, after senators met with the media and posed for some photos near the river.
Carlos Sánchez is director of public affairs for Hidalgo county, Texas. He was a journalist for 37 years and has worked for the Washington Post and Texas Monthly magazine, as well as eight other newsrooms.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism