Filed Under: U.S.

El Paso residents respond to migrant influx at America’s Southern border

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New numbers from Customs and Border Protection reveal October marked the eighth month in a row with more than 200,000 migrant encounters at America’s southern border. But as the focus remains on the immigrants, agents, and politicians, Straight Arrow News wanted to know how this influx impacts local residents. Many are eager to talk about it. 

Dolores Chacon Chavira is a retired educator who lives in a downtown El Paso, Texas home that’s been in her family for generations. It’s directly on the border and has 30-foot high, steel border fencing in the backyard that was installed by the federal government. She described illegal immigration as “intrusive”. 

“I want fairness for everybody. It’s not working as well as it should be,” Chavira said. “It’s shameful for anybody to say that the border is secure. It’s insulting to those that know better. And yes, fences do work. I call this fence my freedom fence.” 

The fencing in Chavira’s backyard is not former President Donald Trump’s wall. It was approved in 2006 with the Secure Fence Act. The bipartisan bill was supported by Senators Biden, Obama, Clinton, McConnell and Schumer. 

“Other people could live their quality of life, so to speak, I couldn’t. And that is the truth. I had illegals on my roof in my backyard, under the car. I even spoke to a couple of them to tell him to please leave my area,” Chavira said. 

Chavira hosted a roundtable discussion for Straight Arrow News with other residents who said record migration over the last year has been overwhelming. 

“I mean, we can sympathize with them and we can help them in other ways. But to turn around and say, ‘Well they’re migrants, they have a right to be here,’…no, they don’t. Especially not at the expense of those people who are here legally,” said Ray Baca, who owns a property management company. 

Like 83% of El Paso, members of this group are Latino. They live in bilingual households and often go back and forth between El Paso and sister city Juarez, Mexico for work or personal reasons. 

Straight Arrow News asked group members to put themselves in the immigrants’ shoes. If they lived in Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba and thought moving to America was the best thing for their family, wouldn’t they do the same thing? 

“That doesn’t mean that we’re heartless and we don’t feel for the people that are suffering. But if we have laws and part of that laws, of the immigration laws, is the asylum. And that’s exactly why we have asylum, for those people that are being persecuted by the government, not fleeing poverty,” former Republican congressional candidate Irene Jackson said. 

“I feel sorry for them, but do it the right way like we did it in my family. We are all citizens now from the United States,” said Lupita Meneses, a local funeral counselor.

Meneses comes from a family of immigrants. Her family’s story in the U.S. began with her father, who entered the Bracero program, a World War II era agreement with Mexico to help fill agricultural labor shortages. Multiple members of the group wondered why so many immigrants are willing to give tens of thousands of dollars to “coyotes”, the term used to describe human smugglers who help people get across. 

“Why do you want to pay all this money to the coyotes instead of paying a lawyer and make it the right way to come to United States,” Meneses asked. 

Pecan farmer Jennifer Ivey echoed similar sentiments. She said there are many employers in the area who are willing to sponsor immigrants to help fill job openings. 

“We’ve had several employees that had to leave in the middle of the night because of the cartel and have come across and then we sponsor them as an employer and then they go through the process legally. And it’s much cheaper than what they’re paying the coyotes,” Ivey said. “I think the going price right now is between $8,000 and $15,000, and it’s about $4000 to get an attorney and file your paperwork and get a sponsor.”

Immigration thrust this city into the national spotlight. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R, bussed migrants out of state, and in a leaked phone call,  President Biden pressured El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser not to declare an emergency until after the midterm elections. These Texans are thoroughly engaged in what makes national headlines, as it happens in their own backyard. 

“When they sent the 50 to Martha’s Vineyard, you know they declared an emergency. But we had 50 suffocate in the back of a semi-truck and nobody cared about that,” Ivey said. 

In September, immigrant arrivals overwhelmed El Paso and large groups slept on the streets. To respond, the city and county created welcome centers that arranged for immigrants to travel to other cities. County commissioners then got FEMA to foot the bill. 

“We weren’t willing to move forward until we got the money, and once we got the $6.3 million, we set up the process center,” County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said. “It’s only sustainable if we keep getting the money from FEMA.”

Local officials SAN spoke with said El Paso is a welcoming, humanitarian community that wants to make sure migrants are treated humanely. 

“So I’m very cognizant that if you treat the migrants properly that one day they’ll remember how we treated them. And I want them to feel good about being in the United States,” Samaniego said. “They’re going to be working and they’re going to be part of our workforce. What kind of an attitude would we like for them to have about the United States?”

This story is one in a four part series of original Straight Arrow News reports from the border.

New numbers from Customs and Border Protection reveal October was the 8th month in a row with more than 200,000 migrant encounters on the southern border. But as the focus remains on the immigrants, agents, and politicians, Straight Arrow News wanted to know how this influx impacts locals. Many are eager to talk about it. 

Dolores Chacon Chavira is a retired educator who lives in a downtown El Paso, Texas home that’s been in her family for generations. It’s directly on the border and has 30 foot high, steel border fencing in the backyard that was installed by the federal government. She described illegal immigration as “intrusive”. 

“I want fairness for everybody. It’s not working as well as it should be,” Chavira said. “It’s shameful for anybody to say that the border is secure. It’s insulting to those that we know better. And yes, fences do work. I call this fence my freedom fence.” 

The fencing in Chavira’s backyard is not Trump’s wall, it was approved in 2006 with the Secure Fence Act. The bipartisan bill was supported by Senators Biden, Obama, Clinton, McConnell and Schumer. 

“Other people could live their quality of life, so to speak, I couldn’t. And that is the truth. I had illegals on my roof in my backyard, under the car. I even spoke to a couple of them to tell him to please leave my area,” Chavira said. 

Chavira hosted a roundtable discussion for Straight Arrow News with other residents who say record migration over the last year has been overwhelming. 

“I mean, we can sympathize with them and we can help them in other ways. But to turn around and say – well they’re migrants, they have a right to be here – no they don’t. Especially not at the expense of those people who are here legally,” said Ray Baca, who owns a property management company. 

Like 83% of El Paso, members of this group are Latino, live in bilingual households, and often go back and forth between El Paso and sister city Juarez, Mexico for work or personal reasons. 

Straight Arrow News asked the group to put themselves in the immigrants’ shoes. If they lived in Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba and thought moving to America was the best thing for their family, wouldn’t they do the same thing? 

“That doesn’t mean that we’re heartless and we don’t feel for the people that are suffering. But if we have laws and part of that laws, of the immigration laws, is the asylum. And that’s exactly why we have asylum, for those people that are being persecuted by the government, not fleeing poverty,” former Republican congressional candidate Irene Jackson said. 

“I feel sorry for them, but do it the right way like we did it in my family. We are all citizens now from the United States,” Lupita Meneses, a local funeral counselor said. 

Meneses comes from a family of immigrants. Her family’s story in the US began with her father who entered the Bracero program, a World War II era agreement with Mexico to help fill agricultural labor shortages. Multiple members of the group wondered why so many immigrants are willing to give tens of thousands of dollars to “coyotes”, the term used to describe human smugglers who help people get across. 

“Why do you want to pay all this money to the coyotes instead of paying a lawyer and make it the right way to come to United States,” Meneses asked. 

Pecan farmer Jennifer Ivey echoed similar sentiments. She said there are many employers in the area who are willing to sponsor immigrants to help fill job openings. 

“We’ve had several employees that had to leave in the middle of the night because of the cartel and have come across and then we sponsor them as an employer and then they go through the process legally. And it’s much cheaper than what they’re paying the coyotes,” Ivey said.  “I think the going price right now is between $8,000 and $15,000, and it’s about $4000 to get an attorney and file your paperwork and get a sponsor.”

Immigration thrust this city into the national spotlight. That includes bussing migrants out of state and a leaked phone call during which President Biden pressured El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser not to declare an emergency until after the midterm elections. These Texans are thoroughly engaged in what makes national headlines, as it happens in their own backyard. 

“When they sent the 50 to Martha’s Vineyard, you know they declared an emergency. But we had 50 suffocate in the back of a semi-truck and nobody cared about that,” Ivey said. 

In September, immigrant arrivals overwhelmed El Paso and large groups slept on the streets. To respond, the city and county created welcome centers that arranged for immigrants to travel to other cities. County Commissioners then got FEMA to pay for it. 

“We weren’t willing to move forward until we got the money, and once we got the 6.3 million, we set up the process center,” County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said. “It’s only sustainable if we keep getting the money from FEMA.”

Local officials SAN spoke with said El Paso is a welcoming, humanitarian community that wants to make sure migrants are treated humanely. 

“So I’m very cognizant that if you treat the migrants properly that one day they’ll remember how we treated them. And I want them to feel good about being in the United States,” Samaniego said. “They’re going to be working and they’re going to be part of our workforce, what kind of an attitude would we like for them to have about the United States?”

Ray Bogan: “there is a general consensus on both sides of the aisle that the immigration system is broken. What in all of your minds would fix it?”

Ray Baca: “Let’s, let’s get rid of chain migration. Target our new immigrants to the needs that we. Yeah, yeah. What is it that we need? We need more labor. Let’s let more people with lesser skills and we need more technical skills. Let’s let more people or technical skills.”

Irene Jackson: “If you want to have immigration reform, then let’s have that conversation. But right now let’s enforce the laws because the laws are in are in the books to protect American citizens and that’s the number one responsibility of the government to provide for the tranquility of it.”

They have hope the situation will improve. But even though they are the family of immigrants and live on the border, they feel Washington doesn’t hear them 2,00 miles away. 

New numbers from Customs and Border Protection reveal October marked the eighth month in a row with more than 200,000 migrant encounters at America’s southern border. But as the focus remains on the immigrants, agents, and politicians, Straight Arrow News wanted to know how this influx impacts local residents. Many are eager to talk about it. 

Dolores Chacon Chavira is a retired educator who lives in a downtown El Paso, Texas home that’s been in her family for generations. It’s directly on the border and has 30-foot high, steel border fencing in the backyard that was installed by the federal government. She described illegal immigration as “intrusive”. 

“I want fairness for everybody. It’s not working as well as it should be,” Chavira said. “It’s shameful for anybody to say that the border is secure. It’s insulting to those that know better. And yes, fences do work. I call this fence my freedom fence.” 

The fencing in Chavira’s backyard is not former President Donald Trump’s wall. It was approved in 2006 with the Secure Fence Act. The bipartisan bill was supported by Senators Biden, Obama, Clinton, McConnell and Schumer. 

“Other people could live their quality of life, so to speak, I couldn’t. And that is the truth. I had illegals on my roof in my backyard, under the car. I even spoke to a couple of them to tell him to please leave my area,” Chavira said. 

Chavira hosted a roundtable discussion for Straight Arrow News with other residents who said record migration over the last year has been overwhelming. 

“I mean, we can sympathize with them and we can help them in other ways. But to turn around and say, ‘Well they’re migrants, they have a right to be here,’…no, they don’t. Especially not at the expense of those people who are here legally,” said Ray Baca, who owns a property management company. 

Like 83% of El Paso, members of this group are Latino. They live in bilingual households and often go back and forth between El Paso and sister city Juarez, Mexico for work or personal reasons. 

Straight Arrow News asked group members to put themselves in the immigrants’ shoes. If they lived in Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba and thought moving to America was the best thing for their family, wouldn’t they do the same thing? 

“That doesn’t mean that we’re heartless and we don’t feel for the people that are suffering. But if we have laws and part of that laws, of the immigration laws, is the asylum. And that’s exactly why we have asylum, for those people that are being persecuted by the government, not fleeing poverty,” former Republican congressional candidate Irene Jackson said. 

“I feel sorry for them, but do it the right way like we did it in my family. We are all citizens now from the United States,” said Lupita Meneses, a local funeral counselor.

Meneses comes from a family of immigrants. Her family’s story in the U.S. began with her father, who entered the Bracero program, a World War II era agreement with Mexico to help fill agricultural labor shortages. Multiple members of the group wondered why so many immigrants are willing to give tens of thousands of dollars to “coyotes”, the term used to describe human smugglers who help people get across. 

“Why do you want to pay all this money to the coyotes instead of paying a lawyer and make it the right way to come to United States,” Meneses asked. 

Pecan farmer Jennifer Ivey echoed similar sentiments. She said there are many employers in the area who are willing to sponsor immigrants to help fill job openings. 

“We’ve had several employees that had to leave in the middle of the night because of the cartel and have come across and then we sponsor them as an employer and then they go through the process legally. And it’s much cheaper than what they’re paying the coyotes,” Ivey said. “I think the going price right now is between $8,000 and $15,000, and it’s about $4000 to get an attorney and file your paperwork and get a sponsor.”

Immigration thrust this city into the national spotlight. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R, bussed migrants out of state, and in a leaked phone call,  President Biden pressured El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser not to declare an emergency until after the midterm elections. These Texans are thoroughly engaged in what makes national headlines, as it happens in their own backyard. 

“When they sent the 50 to Martha’s Vineyard, you know they declared an emergency. But we had 50 suffocate in the back of a semi-truck and nobody cared about that,” Ivey said. 

In September, immigrant arrivals overwhelmed El Paso and large groups slept on the streets. To respond, the city and county created welcome centers that arranged for immigrants to travel to other cities. County commissioners then got FEMA to foot the bill. 

“We weren’t willing to move forward until we got the money, and once we got the $6.3 million, we set up the process center,” County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said. “It’s only sustainable if we keep getting the money from FEMA.”

Local officials SAN spoke with said El Paso is a welcoming, humanitarian community that wants to make sure migrants are treated humanely. 

“So I’m very cognizant that if you treat the migrants properly that one day they’ll remember how we treated them. And I want them to feel good about being in the United States,” Samaniego said. “They’re going to be working and they’re going to be part of our workforce. What kind of an attitude would we like for them to have about the United States?”

This story is one in a four part series of original Straight Arrow News reports from the border.

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