McALLEN — Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Leticia Van de Putte said Tuesday that the recent surge in immigrants crossing the Rio Grande are not looking for economic opportunity — they’re trying to save their lives.
Van De Putte fielded questions during a one-on-one interview with Monitor editor Carlos Sanchez before a crowd of around 100 people during the latest Newsmaker Breakfast Series event at the McAllen Convention Center.
Van de Putte visited the Rio Grande Valley to observe the McAllen detention center and see the response to the recent flood of unaccompanied children crossing the Rio Grande. She said she recently spoke with a woman who had been detained by Border Patrol. For that woman — as with many immigrant detainees —it’s a matter of life and death.
“They already killed her brother and sister, and she was joining her mother who was already in the United States legally,” Van De Putte said of the woman fleeing organized criminals in Central America. “It’s about fleeing that violence, it’s about abject poverty and the lawlessness.”
Van de Putte, a Democratic senator from San Antonio, compared recent immigrants’ stories to her own Tejano roots when her grandmother came to the United States in 1910, during the Mexican Revolution.
“They didn’t come for economic opportunity; they came because their businesses were being burned, because their families were being killed,” she said.
Van de Putte said she doesn’t want to see further deployments of the National Guard along the Texas-Mexico border and would rather give grant money to local law enforcement.
“You folks are doing a magnificent job of handling this, both at the local level and certainly at the detention center that I saw that just a few weeks ago had 400 people in it there were about three dozen people in it,” she said.
Van de Putte faces state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in November’s general election for lieutenant governor.
Supporters have billed Van de Putte as someone who could attract votes from beyond her party. She billed herself as not the average Democrat due to her pro-business stance.
“I think she [Leticia Van de Putte] had very good issues concerning the education for our children and grandchildren that is very important,” said Aurora Villanueva, who said she’s lived her 40 years on a ranch near La Blanca.
But Villanueva said she’s still undecided about the impending fall election, “We’ll see,” she laughed when asked who she might vote for.
Bonne “Cherie” Hodges, a pharmacist who moved here 12 years ago is registered Republican, but said she prefers to vote for candidates based on their issues — not necessarily along party lines.
“I have things in common with both parties and disagreements with both parties but I am a conservative,” she said. “I really want to know what’s going on, what people are thinking, what are the leaders’ priorities.”
Hodges asked the candidate about energy grid issues in Texas and said it’s something she’s worried about.
“She answered part of my question but I am really concerned about the vulnerability of our grid actually and its ability to sustain over the years,” she added.