Vice president’s visit sparks demonstrations in McAllen

Dayra, 10, an immigrant child from Mexico bows her head as she becomes emotional after describing her experience at the Border Patrol Processing Center during a protest outside of the center on Friday July 12, 2019 in McAllen. Photo by Delcia Lopez/ The Monitor


MCALLEN — Protests were held here Friday in response to Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to tour U.S. Border Patrol facilities. Specifically, demonstrators protested outside the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center and McCreery Aviation.

Marta Sánchez, a head coordinator at La Unión Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, said the protest held outside the processing center Friday morning was also a vigil held in solidarity with a nationwide movement called Lights for Liberty.

“We wanted to tell [Pence] that Border Patrol are not the only people who live in the Rio Grande Valley,” Sanchez said. “[Pence and Congress] should have the decency to look around. Don’t take just one side. Look at the whole picture.”

Hundreds of Lights for Liberty events were held in cities across the country Friday. The movement calls for the end of immigration detention.

Dani Marrero Hi, a staff member of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the national protest shows it’s not just a few groups that are angry.

“It’s Americans that are infuriated with the fact that immigrants are being detained,” Marrero Hi said. “We need to … start respecting international asylum laws and completely reimagine the way we manage immigration.”

Across the street from McCreery Aviation Friday afternoon, a group of supporters waved “Trump/Pence 2020” posters and an American flag to greet the vice presidential visit.

JJ Ballenger, left, and Aron Garza welcome vice-president Mike Pence’s visit Friday afternoon. Photo by Celeste Gracia

Aron Garza, a member of the STC College Republicans, said the Valley should welcome this visit.

“I think it’s important to show the community the importance of this visit,” Garza, 20, said. “We should be reaching out.”

Pence also visited the Donna processing facility and the Border Patrol station in McAllen on Friday. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, also visited.

Laura Shell, 37 from Edinburg, brought her three children, including her 6-year-old daughter, to the Lights for Liberty vigil.

She said she wants her children to be a part of the change.

“I wanted them to be exposed to injustice,” Shell said. “We prayed about it. We read in the bible where Jesus says to love our neighbors and to be a voice for those who need one.”

Criselda Leal, 61, of Mission, also brought along her 5-year-old grandson to welcome Pence’s arrival.

“I want him to learn,” Leal said. “I want him to know the truth.”

The truth, Leal believes, is that the Valley is experiencing a border crisis, but she does believe in getting help.

“These people are taking their time to come over here,” Leal said, referring to Pence and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leal also called for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally to be charged and returned to their home countries.

LUPE protestors were also nearby McCreery Aviation, demonstrating their own message.

Photo Gallery: LUPE Protest

Amy Brown, 52, drove from Kansas City, Kansas, a 17-hour drive, to join the vigil Friday morning. Brown traveled with her daughter and husband.She said she wanted to be “where it’s happening.”

“It’s America,” Brown said when asked about her thoughts on McAllen. “It’s all the same. What is happening in that building is not the same.”

JJ Ballenger, a member of the Hidalgo County Young Republicans, said people need to follow the law.

“I think we should have a system that helps create more first generation Americans, but there’s still a legal process,” Ballenger said.

Ballenger, 27, also believes that “every piece of common sense immigration reform came from the Republican Party.”

“I think there’s two different pictures,” Ballenger said. “There’s a middle ground somewhere.”