Local Texas leaders are warning about the surge of migrants at the southern border in anticipation of the expected Dec. 21 rollback of Title 42.
A local judge, rancher, businessman and chair of the GOP in the Rio Grande Valley told Fox News Digital that the rollback would be detrimental to their communities culturally and economically.
Title 42 is a public emergency health order invoked by the Trump administration in 2020 as part of its COVID-19 mitigation effort, which allows the federal government to immediately turn away migrants at the southern border.
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Javier Palomarez, president & CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Business Council (USHBC), said his network of 4.8 million Hispanic-owned firms are often left out of the conversation.
“No one’s listening to the people who are right there on the front lines,” Palomarez told Fox News Digital. “And that’s what is confusing and frankly, it’s alarming to us as an association.“
Sabrina Leeloo Gonzalez, the USHBC’s vice president and chief of staff, said because border patrol agents are stretched so thin, they are now doing things outside the scope of their job descriptions.
“They’re not social service people,” Gonzalez said. “Border Patrol agents are supposed to be filtering out bad actors… we need to find a way to address the capacity issue.”
She said that before the government can start working on a comprehensive immigration reform plan, it needs to find a way to minimize the “crisis” it is experiencing.
“With Title 42 set to expire just around the corner, that’s only going to make this crisis worse and if this crisis continues to amplify itself, it’s going to make it that much harder for people to reach a consensus on how to find a solution,” she said.
Dante Galeazzi lives in Mission, Texas, and serves as the president the Texas International Produce Association, which represents the economic and political interests of Texas-grown fruits and vegetables.
He said his industry has struggled with labor capacity for decades, but with Title 42 going away, the situation is only going to worsen.
“The workforce doesn’t want to stay in this region, the entire Texas border region… because they’re looking to get out of here and to safer places,” he said. “Our industry has taken a direct hit over the last few years, and the situation continues to linger.”
He said most people only hear about the big incidents, but they don’t see what everyday life is like in the region.
“They don’t feel the impacts of the challenge as it goes on year after year,” he added. “They don’t realize that while it may not disrupt every aspect of our lives, we do see what it does to the peripherals of our lives, how it impacts our industries, sectors, taxes and infrastructure.”
Adrienne Pena Garza lives in Pharr, Texas, where she serves as Rio Grande chairwoman of the GOP, but she said she sees this issue as a mom, wife, daughter and friend.
“Immigration is not a political football,” Garza said.
In her role, she has become friends with the wives of many border patrol agents and hears their concerns as a result, but because of an unofficial, verbal gag order, they are scared to speak out and share their stories.
The gag order limits the contact that border officials can have with the media and requires press officials to send all media requests to the Customs and Border Patrol’s office in Washington, D.C., NBC News reported.
Border patrol agents and their wives won’t talk to the media, which she believes is one of the reasons suicide and mental illness problems have spiked.
“They have no one to talk to about what they’re seeing,” Garza said.
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“I do hear devastating things from border patrol wives, and there’s a burden that they carry,” she added. “They’re worried whether their husbands” or “their families are going to come home at night.”
Garza said she has hope that the president can put politics aside to come up with a resolution so border patrol agents don’t feel “alone” or “forgotten” and instead, their communities can feel safe and their work can continue.
“I know that a lot of agents and their wives have lost hope with his administration because they feel forgotten,” Garza said. “But I also have hope as an individual here in this community that just maybe, we can come together on this topic, keep Title 42 and encourage Congress to pass immigration [reform].”
Involvement in the community has grown as more wives of border patrol agents express interest in leadership roles, which has helped the Republican Party in Hidalgo County, according to Garza.
“These are regular, everyday people and they don’t feel like they’re being listened to,” she said.
“I think American citizens are tired of it… you can just tell that people don’t trust politicians anymore and they want everyday people to rise up and run for office and try to solve these problems,” she added.
Galeazzi said there is a lot of “negative connotation associated with what’s happening right now… because this situation has endured for so long and it continues to grow.”
If Title 42 is removed as planned on Dec. 21, he said it will have a huge economic impact on the region.
Asylum applications that used to take a few months to process can now take up to six years to process, leaving immigrants unable to legally work, according to Human Rights First.
“We want immigrants who are ready to work, but the system continues to be inundated,” Palomarez said. “We risk immigrants draining our local, our state and frankly, our federal resources. Or worse yet, working under the table… all of those are factors that undermine the American economy.”
“The benefits of immigration really stem from allowing immigrants to legally contribute to our economy, doing the work that native-born Americans simply aren’t interested in doing,” he added.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez told Fox News Digital immigrants are important and essential to the future of the United States, but the “broken system” the country has “doesn’t allow the right type of immigrants to join us in this country, to help us with the many jobs that we need.”
“Our economy cannot move forward without immigrants,” he added. “Why don’t we give them a quick and safe way for them to get here?”
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Cortez said he wrote two letters to President Biden regarding Title 42’s looming expiration, calling on the administration to delay suspension of policy and visit the border to see the situation firsthand.
“Title 42 at least gives our hardworking people a tool to manage that flow of people,” he said. “You take that tool away and not give them something similar to Title 42, then I think it’s going to be disaster.”
Businessman and rancher Greg LaMantia lives in Edinburg, Texas, where his family owns and operates L&F Distributors, the biggest Budweiser wholesaler in south Texas.
He said the ranching industry has seen crimes like vehicle theft, drug-smuggling and property damage, but there has also been a big impact on the economic value of land. South Texas is known for its great wildlife and hunting, but now, fewer people are buying ranches in the area because they have heard about the crime and violence in the region.
“I don’t want to sensationalize it, but… you need to pay more attention now and there are situations where people have seen individuals coming through the ranch that have a weapon with a group of 15- to 25-year-old men,” LaMantia said. “You have to be aware.”
Palomarez said administration after administration has refused to comprehensively address immigration reform.
“We’ve created a system where, frankly, it’s more efficient to enter the country by getting caught crossing illegally than it is to wait for approval through the legal avenues that currently exist,” he said.
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