by Morgan Smith
Congratulations to New Mexico Congressman Gabe Vasquez for standing up to Texas Governor Greg Abbott in regard to Abbott's new concertina wire "wall." Recently my wife and I toured it, starting in Sunland Park, New Mexico, driving down the winding rutted road that flanks the Rio Grande and ends by the Mexican border, and then along the other side of the wall by following Paisano Boulevard into El Paso. The governor’s goal is clear. He is not helping to control the border or keep illegal migrants out of the United States. Instead, he is trying either to funnel them away from Texas, up the Rio Grande and into New Mexico, or keep those who enter via New Mexico from getting into Texas. How that helps what he calls national security is hard to understand.
In the same publicity-oriented vein, a year ago, Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to block the Rio Grande in the area of El Paso called Chihuahuita. The problem then was that the U.S. Border Patrol already had that area under control; the Texas soldiers with their vehicles and concertina wire might have looked impressive to some Texas voters but it was just a waste of money.
Abbott has also halted cross-border truck traffic, alleging that migrants are hiding in those trucks. This has caused enormous delays and millions of dollars in economic damage including at the Santa Teresa point of entry, which is vital to New Mexico exporters, Mexico being by far Bew Mexico's largest export market.
Now, however, Abbott has a chance to make a difference in this crucial issue of border control. The U.S. House of Representatives finally has a Speaker, Representative Mike Johnson, and is able to function as a governing body. One action they should take immediately is to vote for President Biden's request for funding to train and hire more Border Patrol agents, as well as legislation just introduced by Congressman Vasquez who represents District Two. I have twice spent early mornings with the Border Patrol in the area to the west of Abbott’s concertina "wall" and seen how effective these agents are in detaining those who cross illegally. Their "human wall" at the base of the very rugged Monte Cristo Rey, for example, is far more effective than the steel wall a few miles to the west, but they need more agents.
Abbott could do something positive by encouraging the Republican members of Texas's Congressional delegation to vote for the work of Biden and Vasquez. In terms of truck traffic, the solution is Vasquez's proposal for funding for more advanced screening technology for commercial vehicles, a followup on legislation proposed earlier by Xochitl Torres Small who represented District Two from 2018 to 2020. The goal would be to detect drugs because it is drugs that come across in trucks, not migrants.
Abbott could also encourage his delegation to vote for an expanded guest-worker program. Many of those who cross illegally are men whose goal is to find temporary or seasonal work in areas like agriculture or construction where they can make far more money in a season than in a full year in their countries. This seems simple. They need decent wages and we need the workers.
As for migrant activity, once again it's in a state of flux. We visited three migrant shelters on this trip – the Sacred Heart church in El Paso where migrants, mostly from Venezuela, were waiting in the street for an evening meal. There were far fewer than in earlier visits. We then took blankets and clothing to the Respettrans shelter in Juárez where there were only about 50 migrants in all. In earlier months,
there would always be roughly 150 to 200, all awaiting asylum interviews with U.S. officials. Lastly, we stopped at the Punto Beta migrant facility in Palomas, Mexico, some 70 miles west of El Paso. There were no migrants there.
The border situation is constantly changing. Biden and Vasquez, however, have offered practical solutions. Can we stop the grandstanding and get them done.
Morgan Smith has been writing about border issues for more than a decade and can be reached at