Protesters arrive ahead of VP’s McAllen stop
McALLEN — Just hours before Vice President Mike Pence was due to arrive at the Texas border Friday, Lupe Valdez-Cox and about 100 others assembled outside the largest federal immigration center to send President Donald Trump’s administration a message.
“We will never stop trying to get Vice President Pence, and Donald Trump for that matter, to understand what is happening at these centers,” said Valdez-Cox, executive director of immigrants rights group, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE.
“It’s not only us,” he added. “It’s elected officials, people from throughout the United States who who are upset. We want sensible immigration reform, not what we are seeing here.”
Pushing back against the growing narrative of immigrants, especially children, being mistreated while in federal custody, Pence plans a visit to the newly opened immigration holding center in Donna where as many as 1,000 migrant families and children are processed at a time.
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Pence’s visit comes as immigration arrests are showing signs of decline. According to recent figures released by Customs and Border Protection, arrests at the border dipped 29% in June. But those numbers followed May totals of more than 140,000 migrants being taken into custody.
That was the highest monthly arrest total since 2006.
The Donna facility, an air conditioned tent complex that opened in early May and expanded in late June about 20 miles from McAllen, is a processing center and not one of those cited as being chronically overcrowded. But it’s also where the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has said migrants are receiving substandard care.
In McAllen, Pence along with Texas Sen. John Cornyn and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee plan to hold a a roundtable discussion Friday afternoon open to reporters.
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Texas Democrats were ready with reaction.
“John Cornyn and Mike Pence are two peas in the same Trump Republican pod,” said party spokesman Abhi Rahman. “These two continue to perpetuate cruel and inhumane border policies and have consistently stood in the way of the only true solution to solving the challenges at our border — comprehensive immigration reform.”
Republicans were quick to push back.
“While 2020 Democrats continue to push radical proposals such as open borders and giving taxpayer-funded healthcare to illegal immigrants, President Trump and Vice President Pence are committed to securing our southern border taking unprecedented steps to end the humanitarian and national security crisis,” said Samantha Cotten, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Outside the Ursula center, protesters sought shade from the South Texas sun under a sprawling live oak and under portable tents and hand-held umbrellas.
They carried signs and chanted in Spanish and English deploring the conditions at migrant centers.
Eugene Delgado, a LUPE attorney who represents migrant children seeking release from detention, said the administration should view the immigration crisis in human terms and not as a law enforcement matter.
“These kids are not criminals,” he said while standing under an open-air tent with several of his young clients outside of Ursula. “And they should not be treated as criminals.
John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.