McALLEN — A month after soldiers were deployed to the Rio Grande Valley to, in part, line international bridges with concertina wire while federal law enforcement conducted training exercises that halted traffic in spurts, southbound crossings decreased at one local bridge and increased at another.
President Donald Trump deployed 5,600 troops to South Texas late last month in anticipation of a group of immigrants on their way to the U.S. border, through Mexico from Central America. But that caravan never came to South Texas, instead it turned for Tijuana, where immigrants are currently in a standoff with U.S. border agents, who have closed one of the border crossings between the Mexican border city and San Diego.
While upwards of 1,000 troops are still stationed at Base Camp Donna along the Rio Grande, their work stringing concertina wire at various points on international bridges and on the border across the Valley remains intact.
At those bridges, crossings continue.
The Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge saw a 13 percent dip in southbound pedestrian crossings in October, compared to October 2017. Southbound car crossings, however, increased at the same bridge by 7 percent in October, compared to October 2017. Southbound bus crossings had a slight decrease as well.
The Anzalduas International Bridge saw a 25 percent increase in southbound car crossings, despite law enforcement personnel holding various training exercises at the bridge leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal law enforcement agency that patrols the bridges, said there are no caravans heading toward South Texas.
“We still have our normal flows,” a CBP official told the McAllen bridge board at a meeting Monday. “We have nothing going on from the caravan.”
According to the official, they’ve been asking every immigrant who arrives at the bridges if they were part of any caravan. None of them have said yes, the official said.
“Maybe Washington can get their act together and pass immigration reform,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said.
Later, during a city of McAllen workshop among city commissioners and city staff, some wondered aloud about the effects of the caravan and marketing the city in positive light, despite much of the attention focusing on immigration and border security.
“I got a text from a friend in Houston asking, ‘Are you safe, are you ok?’” City Commissioner Veronica Whitacre said.
“Yeah,” Darling said. “How do we stop that?”
Steve Ahlenius, McAllen Chamber of Commerce president, said when advertising the city, they do not ignore the national issues unfolding here.
“We talk about it in a subtle way,” he said.