In Laredo, border security improvements wanted, "giant wall" not so much

Tom Abrahams Image
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

KTRK crews capture people crossing the border on camera.

LAREDO, TX (KTRK) -- Late Tuesday afternoon, in the town of Rio Bravo, outside of Laredo, Eyewitness News photographer Noe Cumplido spotted four men just crossed the Rio Grand and were rolling their way into the United State to avoid detection by the Border Patrol, which was set up just two hundred yards away.

Those men could be men looking for work, returning to their families, or they could be criminals. We have no way of knowing.

It is this activity upon which Donald Trump based much of his campaign. Promising to build a wall---to deport millions of illegal immigrants. But here in south Texas where the border is also a lifeline for migration and for trade, his campaign rhetoric does not sit well.

"I have a number of clients who are worried about what their status is going to be once Trump takes office," said Jose Salvador Telez, an attorney who works immigration. He's also with the League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 12, in Laredo.

"He proposed a border wall. The fact of the matter is there is a border wall already from California to New Mexico almost."

Ed Bueno is also a board member of LULAC Council 12. He believes Trump's rhetoric is misguided. He cites the President-elect's criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement as one example.

"I think Trump is going to realize 'I said this but I didn't exactly mean this'," he said. "If he does away with NAFTA, he's going to put a lot of people out of work. That's going to ruin the economy."

They say they believe Trump doesn't yet understand the benefits of free trade or the improbability of a wall along a border which, in long stretches, can't support one.

But Roy Beck knows as much as anybody on what Trump does believe about immigration. His Virginia-based nonprofit immigration think tank, NumbersUSA, offered data and information to a dozen of the 2016 candidates including Trump.

He told Eyewitness News Trump has rightly softened on key issues as he begins to understand the feasibility and cost. We spoke with him via Skype.

"President-elect Trump changed his position a lot on immigration over the two years, sometimes in the same day," Beck said. "At the first, I think he will really boost up the building based on moving some money around that he has available. But pretty quickly he's going to need more money from Congress. Most people who are here illegally are highly unlikely to see any sign of a deportation, basically it'll be only the criminal aliens."

At the same time, the state of Texas is keeping resources deployed at the border---working with what it calls a Border Prosecution Unit. The Department of Public Safety has joined federal agencies on patrol on the ground, on the water, and in the air.

As of September, the latest numbers available, more than 1,700 DPS troopers are deployed to the border affecting more than 3,000 arrests and assisting with more than 17,000 detentions of illegal immigrants in the last 60 days. Evidence, bolstered by what we witnessed along the border in the late afternoon, there are issues along the border with which the new President will have to cope one way or another.

You may remember, it was 16 months ago when Trump first came to Laredo.

He'd announced he was building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants and that his visiting the border was dangerous. Trump opponent, Eva Bermudez was there.

"I couldn't believe he was going to come to Laredo in the first place," she said, "After everything he said about Hispanic people, immigrants, Mexicans being rapists, I didn't like it at all."

Now Trump is the president-elect. After voting herself, Bermudez watched last Tuesday's returned with a dropped jaw.

"I was in shock. I'm still in shock. I'm still angry about it I guess."

Despite her disappointment and her unwillingness to give him a chance, she is not necessarily afraid of what he'll do.

In fact, and maybe surprisingly, as a longtime resident of Laredo, her home just yards from the border, she doesn't disagree with his idea there needs to be a change.

"He should be concentrating on getting more money to the border patrol, border patrol agents, ICE agents out there doing the job, putting more money into security on the border," she said. "So you want to see more border security. You just don't like the way he's talked about it. Exactly. Immigration reform has been long overdue. We do need immigration reform but not in the way he is saying it. Not in the way he is saying or explaining it."