HARLINGEN — The week that troops were deployed to the border, both Senate candidates in Texas spent time on that same border with very different messages.
“Where is Beto on immigration? It is bad, bad news,” said incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, bashing his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, for opposing the construction of a border wall. The Harlingen crowd booed when Cruz named O’Rourke, and again at a rally in Mission, when Cruz invoked “the caravan.”
Later in the week, 30 minutes north, in Raymondville, O’Rourke took a different approach.
“Are we going to submit to this kind of fear mongering and the president trying to stoke paranoia?” O’Rourke said. “The racism that he’s employed in describing immigrants as rapists and criminals. It’s very clear that a caravan that’s still 800, 700 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, that poses no threat to this country, is being used to instill fear and panic in anticipation of an election that’s going to be decided in five days.”
In other Congressional races across the country, from California to Minnesota to Florida, immigration and the border has taken center stage. Political action committees have spent thousands on ads revolving around the caravan of immigrants marching through Mexico right now, en route from Central America to the United States.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Florida ran an ad pretending to teach one of his children how to build a border wall. A PAC ran an ad for a Republican Congressional candidate in Minnesota that said “a caravan full of illegal immigrants marching on America” is bringing with it “gang members and criminals.”
In the Rio Grande Valley, politicians talking about the border is nothing new.
“We live it everyday. It’s not a political motivator for us. It’s something we live everyday with our neighbors,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said last week. “When you think about it, we’re closer to Reynosa than San Antonio… 8,000 people cross the bridge every day, just walking here. It’s different for us. It’s everyday life. It’s not political football.”
In Raymondville for O’Rourke’s event, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, called the troops’ deployment to the border a “dog and pony show.”
O’Rourke, also a border native, said people of the borderlands are “not taking” Trump’s use of the border for political gain.
“They’re standing up,” O’Rourke said. “We’re seeing early voting turnout that defies most predictions, in many cases two or three times what it was in 2014 — the last midterm election. But people are also sharing their stories of what makes our community strong and safe and successful, and very often it is the immigrants who make the decision to come here, lawfully, to work, to be with their families, to improve our communities, our quality of life, our economy.”