Title 42 expired, but for border towns, life goes on around immigration policy : NPR
Veronica G. Cardenas/AP
When a Trump-era immigration policy – known as Title 42 – expired last week, there were expectations that it would lead to an increase in the number of people entering the United States from many of the cities of the southern border of the country.
In recent days, however, this has not been a reality. In fact, there was a general reduction in border crossings so far.
Rudy Flores works in downtown Brownsville, one of the southernmost cities in the United States. It sits right on the border between Texas and Mexico. Border towns often get media attention when something happens with US immigration policy. He says that much of what he hears in the media often does not match his experience.
“They’re making it look worse than it is,” Flores said. “It’s just calm. They’re just trying to get somewhere.”
In general, increased attention from the media and from policy makers during national debates on immigration policy causes some resentment among the people who actually live along the border between the States United States and Mexico. Flores says this time is no different.
“For me, nothing has changed even though I work downtown,” he said. “A little more traffic – foot traffic. But other than that, it’s normal for me.”
Brenda Gomez was born and raised in Brownsville and loves living there. She says that because it is on the border, the city is a mix of Mexican and American cultures.
“I grew up in Mexican culture,” she says. “So I’m home. Every time I travel out of the valley, I like it, but it feels like home whenever I come back here. So, I love the culture. I love the people.”
Gomez says that crossing back and forth between Mexico and the United States is also part of life here.
“I travel a lot to Mexico,” she says. “So every time I go to Mexico and then I come back and I see people wanting to cross or just being held there for so long. It has its pros and cons.”
On the one hand, Gomez says she is fine with people coming to the United States in search of a better life. But, she says, the people already living in these border towns need help too.
Dani Marrero She is the communications director for a local organization called LUPE, which is a multi-generational community organizing group working in the Rio Grande Valley. Marrero Hi uses they/she pronouns.
They say immigration often becomes a focus for policymakers, but the people and voters their group talks to in the valley have a wide range of basic needs.
“Immigration is something that is important to the families that are already here and the families that are arriving,” they explained, regarding the concerns that families in Brownsville are facing. “But what we hear the most is, for example, access to good paying jobs, our infrastructure.”
They said recent thunderstorms, which were relatively mild, caused school closures and widespread flooding due to poor drainage in border communities. Marrero Hi says basic public resources like roads, water and electricity are the most important — and immigration is just another issue in the mix.
“Being in border towns, this is just part of life,” they said. “That’s in our DNA. We all have stories about immigration. I think where we screw up is when we listen to the state or the national conversation either way [Texas] Gov. [Greg] Abbott — or sometimes even President Biden — talks about the border. They just never feel like they’re talking to us.”
Marrero Hi says it’s not surprising that the end of Title 42 has resulted in a focus on border communities, but they say the way these communities are portrayed is often misleading.
“It’s not a picture that I think people want to paint – or those dehumanizing terms like ‘waves’ or ‘surges’ of people,” said Marrero Hi. “It’s much more like families and individuals among the most vulnerable in the world trying to find shoelaces, deodorant and a way to reunite with their families here.”
Every time there is this media attention, however, Marrero Hi says that they hope it creates an opportunity for policy makers to improve the situation on the border for the people who already live here, as well as the -families and individuals who have just arrived.