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As Texas seizes portion of US-Mexico border, locals seek resolution

The Texas National Guard put up more razor wire in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, the latest escalation in a conflict that has frustrated locals.
As Texas seizes portion of US-Mexico border, locals seek resolution
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 19:55:33-05

While the political drama plays out in Washington over whether there will be real reform to U.S. immigration and border security laws, real policy consequences play out in real life in Texas, much to the chagrin of the people of Eagle Pass.

"So, are they gonna let you guys go in?” Juanita Martinez, a Maverick County Democratic Party Chair asked a Border Patrol agent.

"Oh, I was doing quick patrol; I dunno ... We'll see what they say,” the agent responded.

The answer to the United States Border Patrol agent was probably a "no," because they turned around and left the area of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas. The park is now occupied by the state's National Guard and the Department of Public Safety.

Federal law states that the U.S. Border Patrol has jurisdiction anywhere, public or private, up to 25 miles inland from an international boundary.

Martinez says this scene shows the dysfunction between Texas' governor and the federal government.

"All this is a political stunt for Abbott to make people scared. Why? Because the Republicans don't have anything else to run on,” said Martinez.

Armed guards and state police occupy the park, which Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says is necessary to enforce the state's own border security program called Operation Lone Star, which has already cost Texas taxpayers billions of dollars.

"They don't give a damn about this community. They don't give a damn about this either. To them, it's all political theater. That's all it is,” said Martinez.

This is all happening as Senate negotiators in Washington are working on a bipartisan bill that would significantly restrict illegal crossings on the southern border, but it is in jeopardy as House Republicans are saying they won't vote for the legislation because they think it is not strong enough. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is badmouthing the deal, even though it delivers things his previous administration asked for, like increased executive authority to shut down a border.

"It's demoralizing; we could have a united front, state and federal, working together; we could be doing more with our biggest trading partner, Mexico,” said Democratic State Rep. Eddie Morales.

Morales says Eagle Pass needs federal lawmakers to compromise.

"And so the message should be clear to Congress: Do your job. It's been over 30 years that we have a failed immigration system, and it's time for them to do their job. Especially if they talk that much about it and complain that much about it and made it their number one issue,” said Morales.

The last time lawmakers significantly altered immigration laws was in 1986.

Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber, a former Border Patrol agent, said change was badly needed.

“I heard the news that [former] President Trump wants for the Republicans not to find a solution right now because it helps him with the politics. But it doesn't help us in the county,” said Sheriff Schmerber.

The sheriff said that the status quo of the Democrats currently in the White House doesn't help either, with record crossings consistently putting a strain on local resources.

"My deputies are being split to do what they're supposed to be doing, and with more immigration stuff, you know, so I'm losing the manpower, and it's costly money-wise, too,” said Schmerber.

As for agreement in Washington, the locals Scripps News has spoken with say they've lived with decades of dysfunction, with bipartisan bills failing during George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now possibly Joe Biden's time in the White House.

They're jaded, and they want a solution and for politicians to compromise.

SEE MORE: Biden says he would shut down border if Congress sends him a deal


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