Brownsville Besteiro students stage mini parade, react to Biden visit

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
Spanish teacher Diana Sanchez, center left, leads the mini parade at Besteiro Middle School on Thursday as BISD Interim Superintendent Jesus H. Chavez, left, and other teachers and students look on. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

On the day President Joe Biden visited Brownsville to get a better understanding of problems at the U.S.-Mexico border, two eighth-graders at Besteiro Middle School expressed compassion with the migrants and trust in the president’s process.

Aldo Lerma and Samuel Longoria both said they understand that many of the thousands of migrants crossing the border, including near their school, are, as Longoria put it, “just good people that are trying to bring a better life to their families.”

But at the same time, Lerma said, “we don’t know what kind of people they are. You can’t be judging them, but it’s hard to feel (completely) safe when it comes to people crossing the border.” He said he feels Biden knows what he’s doing when it comes to immigration and “I trust his process.”

The two students spoke with The Brownsville Herald Thursday morning in the Besteiro library after students in Diana Sanchez’s Spanish classes staged a mini parade through Besteiro and adjacent Aiken Elementary to pay tribute to the area’s Mexican American culture at the beginning of Charro Days.

The school sits on the edge of Southmost, within walking distance of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Lerma and Longoria said once or twice in the past year Besteiro has been placed on hard lockdown because of potential problems with people crossing the border.

When asked what they would tell Biden and the U.S. government to do about the border, both said add more Border Patrol agents.

“I’d say the border needs to be improved, because it is an incredible mess. They just need to do their job. I’m not saying they don’t. It is really risky for people to come here. It’s complicated,” Lerma said.

The two also had good things to say about their hometown and what they would tell Biden if they got the chance.

Eighth-graders Samuel Longoria, left, and Aldo Lerma stand in the Besteiro Middle School library after the mini parade through Besteiro and Aiken Elementary on Thursday. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

“It’s a really good city, honestly. Brownsville is a really nice and humble place to live in. We do feel safe, and sometimes there are incidents like immigration and we think that if Joe Biden was to get involved it could be solved,” Lerma said.

“They should focus not just on us, but on the immigrants as well to know what they’re going through. They could help out both parties here,” Longoria added, saying the president and the Congress should “Dig deeper into what’s goin’ on here” to solve the immigration problem.

Lerma also said he sees Brownsville as an underrated city that offers many opportunities, especially at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Meanwhile, teachers expressed some ambivalence on immigration.

“There are rules in place that need to be enforced. … It always worked that way before and you would be processed accordingly, and somehow now it’s not,” one said.

Doug Tolman, the assistant principal, said solutions lie in keeping people on the other side of the border until they’re processed.

Besteiro Principal Teresa Nunez said with immigrants and asylum seekers coming to U.S. borders from all over the world, the United States needs to work with other countries to address the root causes of migration.