McALLEN — While Texas Governor Greg Abbott came to McAllen on Monday to tout his border initiative and related legislative priorities, officials from the city and Hidalgo County in attendance expressed concern for the impending end of the pandemic-related immigration policy known as Title 42.
Abbott delivered remarks at the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition Annual Spring Cooperative Meeting with the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition on Monday regarding border-related issues such as illegal immigration and drug smuggling while announcing steps he’s taken to help sheriff’s offices across the state.
During his remarks, Abbott addressed the influx of average Texans who are responding to social media requests to smuggle people into the country, citing instances where a public school teacher was involved and another where the person caught was working for a district attorney.
“This is an insane crime for average Texans to be involved in,” Abbott said. “And, that’s why one of the laws that we’re working on as we speak is to make it at least a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years behind bars for anyone who assists the drug cartels in smuggling people across our state.”
In addition to the new proposed law, Abbott disclosed a slate of border-related legislation currently in the House and Senate he hopes to pass, including a $350 million fund to assist rural sheriff’s offices and a $4.5 billion state budget security plan that adds $100 million on top of the $350 million for counties participating in Operation Lone Star.
While Abbott spoke about his legislative priorities, McAllen’s mayor who was in attendance was more concerned with the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allowed the government to expel migrants on public health grounds due to COVID-19.
Mayor Javier Villalobos said they have Anzaldua’s Park ready for when Title 42 is lifted, stating that it was used when the flow of immigrants started to slow down last year or so.
“Of course we wish it [didn’t] but chances are, it will,” Villalobos said of Title 42.
Villalobos said they never stopped using Anzaldua’s Park. They had lowered the capacity of people there, but it can easily be ramped up to 5,000 people within a few days if necessary.
He hopes that it doesn’t come to that but said that McAllen is ready to assist.
Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra echoed the same sentiments as McAllen’s mayor regarding preparations being made for the end of Title 42.
“We’re getting prepared for lifting of Title 42 that is expected here in May, so, collectively, as all the border sheriffs, we’re coming together and seeing what type of response is needed and we’re so happy we’ve got the backing of the Texas governor,” Guerra said.
The sheriff stated they’re looking into the CBP One app to do a marketing campaign for users who use it to ask for asylum to inform them that if they don’t use the app, their chances would be “greatly diminished.”
Guerra hopes that the use of the app will help lead people to ports of entry in an “orderly fashion.”
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