This week TAB CEO Glenn Hamer toured the busiest border crossing in the U.S. — the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). While there, he participated in a candid conversation with CBP agents. A big thank you to the LIBRE Initiative and Americans for Prosperity for the invitation. Texas is lucky to have leaders like Daniel Garza, Genevieve Collins, and Jorge Martinez who are dedicated to handling these challenges skillfully and thoughtfully.
The border crisis is getting worse. Last year there were about 500,000 apprehensions along the RGV, a record that may be smashed as we anticipate 800,000 for 2022.
Around 50 percent of agents’ time is spent on humanitarian and non-security activities, primarily because crossers are largely families and children.
The pull factors — meaning factors that allow those who are illegally entering to stay in the US — remain high and continue motivating high volumes of crossers.
Well over 90 percent — probably around 99 percent — enter for economic reasons. However, given the volume of people, it is difficult to track and stop individuals with bad intentions.
Without getting too political, federal border policy chaos is a driving reason why southern Texas is changing politically and becoming redder by the minute. It is not uncommon for locals to see border crossings in civilian areas.
It was also said that Starr County has become one of the key areas for the illicit drug trade of the worst and most lethal drugs, such as fentanyl.
The situation is becoming much more dangerous for agents who are being shot at. No CBP agent said this directly to me, but I sensed bewilderment regarding the policies at the border. These fine men and women deserve our support, but they don’t seem to be getting it. The major cities that have law enforcement present in the RGV remain safe, but the more rural areas where law enforcement is by necessity more sparsely situated are a different story.
The above facts drive the response from Texas officials. While enforcement is a core federal responsibility and the federal government should pay for it, border states like Texas and Arizona have had to take matters into their own hands due to a lack of federal action. I saw portions of the wall and fencing erected during the Bush and Trump years as well as a portion of the Trump wall now being continued by Governor Abbott. The group actually saw construction activity at one of our stops.
The border with Texas and Mexico is so big and diverse that it will take a tremendous effort to materially increase border security. Texas has 1,254 miles of border — far more than any other border state. Fencing, staffing, technology are all important. So is finding legal pathways for people to enter. To boil it down, more security and more legal pathways for people to work are key. Given the need for increased security and the need for more workers — there are more jobs open than people to fill them — both policies make more sense than ever.
At TAB, we are going to play the leading role among State Chambers in our nation to get congressional action on measures that improve safety and our economy. For starters, Congress should pass the Bipartisan Immigration Bill as well as legislation that creates permanent legalization for Dreamers. To this end, kudos to a fine collection of groups including the LIBRE Initiative, AFP and the US Chamber for just releasing a letter to move in this direction.