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Legalization for All Network border delegation brings solidarity to Eagle Pass, TX

By staff

Members of the Legalization for All Network delegation at Eagle Pass, Texas.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Eagle Pass, TX – Members of the Legalization for All (L4A) Network from Los Angeles, Dallas and Minneapolis traveled to the border towns of Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México from February 23-25.

They went to show solidarity with immigrants and activists there fighting against Texas Governor Greg Abbott's racist, anti-immigrant attacks. The Eagle Pass Border Coalition hosted the delegation. The Legalization for All delegation was there just days before Donald Trump went to Eagle Pass to spread racist anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Eagle Pass is a town of 28,000 people on the U.S./México border with a 97% Chicano/Latino population. It has as its sister city across the border Piedras Negras. Eagle Pass has become a flashpoint in national politics as Governor Abbott has delusionally declared that there is an “invasion” there from México and has taken extreme and cruel measures.

Abbott’s measures have maimed and killed immigrants, including installing razor buoys in the Rio Grande and militarily occupying Shelby Park in Eagle Pass with the Texas National Guard. This in defiance of court rulings that say only the federal government can enact immigration policy, not individual states. Beginning in March 2024, Texas’s new harsh anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4 was slated to go into effect, though it has been delayed by a court challenge.

It’s in this context of sharply increasing racist attacks on immigrants and the extreme militarization of border towns that the Legalization for All Network sent an emergency delegation to Eagle Pass to support the brave activists there who are organizing and fighting back.

After arriving in Eagle Pass on Friday evening, February 23, on Saturday the L4A delegation headed to the First United Methodist Church in Eagle Pass for a workshop with youth activists. Two members of the delegation from Centro CSO in Los Angeles presented a training on creating strategic organizing campaigns, going in depth about grassroots organizing and building community power. Eagle Pass Border Coalition members Jessie Fuentes and Amerika Garcia Grewal explained the context of Texas Governor Abbott’s racist anti-immigrant attacks. After that high school and college-age residents of Eagle Pass talked about ideas for organizing and developing political power.

Feeding immigrants

Before the trip, the delegation members quickly raised money to go toward food banks and shelters that are doing the work every day on the ground feeding, clothing and providing shelter to immigrants and refugees. They hand-delivered donations to the Eagle Pass Frontera Ministries at San Lucas Lutheran Church, which operates a food bank serving anyone from the community including immigrants.

While there, they also helped stock the local food bank. Part of the money the delegation raised also went to the Casa de Migrante (Migrant House) in Piedras Negras, just across the border from Eagle Pass, which they later visited as well.

Seeing the militarized border up close

As soon as the delegation members arrived in Eagle Pass they witnessed an extremely heavy law enforcement presence by local, state and federal police agencies, with local police constantly pulling over and harassing community members for minor infractions.

The delegation toured Eagle Pass, and one of the first stops was the county cemetery where unidentified immigrants were buried. There they could see the disturbed soil from where the bodies were recently exhumed to be identified at a university.

Their next stop was along the Rio Grande where the delegation expected to see the Texas National Guard but was surprised to see United States Army soldiers in Border Patrol Vehicles who said, “We're being the eyes and ears for the Border Patrol” when asked why they were there.

The presence of U.S. Army soldiers is an example of the struggle playing out on the Texas border between the federal and state government as Governor Abbott has illegally militarized the border with Texas's National Guard and then the Biden administration has responded by trying to replace state forces with federal U.S. Army troops to supplement Customs and Border Patrol officials. This approach from the Biden administration continues the Republican-led militarization of the border.

The delegation then went to the edge of Shelby Park, where they saw the occupation by Texas National Guard forces of the park on the edge of downtown Eagle Pass along the Rio Grande. This is the main park of the city and is now completely militarized and blocked off for the general public.

Then the delegation went down the road to where Governor Abbott placed concertina wire-wrapped buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande. Federal courts have ordered Texas to remove the deadly buoys that have already killed people, but so far Texas has refused. They also saw a surveillance tower at the edge of the Rio Grande, likely one supplied by Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that uses such technology against Palestinians and also supplies it to the U.S. to use at the U.S./México border.

And as if the current level of border militarization isn’t enough, while the delegation was in Eagle Pass, the headline story of the Del Rio and Eagle Pass News Leader was that Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Military Department, an agency under the governor’s control, had acquired 80 acres of land in Eagle Pass to construct a forward operating base that would house 1800 more soldiers.

Immigrant shelters in Piedras Negras, México

After seeing the extreme militarization of the US side of the border in Eagle Pass, the delegation members crossed the border into Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México.

The Mexico side of the border was a stark contrast to the U.S. side, and not in the way many might assume. Downtown Eagle Pass, like a lot of downtowns in the U.S., has a lot of vacant storefronts, with few people walking around, and with the park along the river completely blocked off to the public with a massive, militarized force. In contrast, Piedras Negras was lively, with lots of people on the streets and kids playing in a giant park just across the border, as well as colorful murals and with clean and fancy shopping on Calle 11. The militarization of the border has choked off visitors from México who used to be able to cross into Eagle Pass more easily, harming the Eagle Pass economy and strengthening the economy of Piedras Negras.

Once in Piedras Negras, the delegation met up with a local activist there who accompanied them to two shelters housing immigrants and asylum seekers.

First they brought boxes of food to Casa del Migrante – Frontera Digna (Migrant House – Dignified Border) to give to asylum seekers staying there. The delegation was warmly greeted at Casa del Migrante. They unloaded the food and helped stock their pantry, then they talked with dozens of immigrants and asylum seekers who gathered around eager to share their stories. The main people they spoke with were from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela and Haiti. People spoke of the hardships they faced in their journey from their home countries to the U.S./México border and spoke of the fact that many of them were robbed and beaten on their long journey by Mexican police or gangs. Women spoke of incidents of sexual violence along the journey.

They spoke of not necessarily wanting to go to the U.S. for a better life or for the “American dream,” but of wanting a secure life. Many of them spoke of facing violence and threats of death in their home countries by gangs, simply for not wanting to join or for objecting to the theft of their homes by the gangs. The destabilization of their home countries by U.S. imperialism is the root cause for many of these people leaving from places like Honduras, Venezuela and Haiti in search of safety for their children.

After leaving Casa del Migrante, the delegation went to a second smaller immigrant shelter down the street. By this time the sun had gone down, and inside the shelter it was completely dark. The people there said the electricity hadn’t worked for days. Delegation members spoke to a Salvadoran woman who was there with her child, who said they left El Salvador due to the terrible economic situation, among other reasons.

It was notable that in both shelters there were large numbers of children. While Texas Governor Abbott and Donald Trump talk about an “invasion” from México, and billions of dollars are being spent on hyper-militarization of the border to stop this so-called invasion, the reality the delegation saw is that the people coming across the border are overwhelmingly families with children seeking refuge from the chaos caused by U.S. imperialism in their countries.

After leaving the second shelter, the delegation went to the edge of the Rio Grande on the México side. While on the México side there are homes and there’s a park where people can walk and sit alongside river, across the river on the U.S. side you see the massive militarization with huge coils of concertina wire, Border Patrol vehicles and armed officers, and huge spotlights pointed at the river and at México.

While at the river, the delegation saw Mexican police vehicles pull up suddenly, who said they received a report of someone drowning trying to cross the river. The delegation didn’t observe anyone drowning but did see one woman successfully cross the river and then try to present herself to the U.S. Border Patrol officials. The Border Patrol didn’t let her through, so instead she got back in the water to go further downstream. It was notable that she crossed successfully because local residents said that the water was higher and choppier than usual. So by forcing her to either swim back across to México or go further downstream to try to cross, it put her life at risk.

The growing battle in Texas and the importance of supporting border activists on the front line

Eagle Pass, Texas is at the epicenter of the conflict in the U.S. between reactionary forces like Donald Trump and Governor Abbott on the one hand, and the working class and oppressed nationality people on the other hand. While the Biden administration doesn’t oppose militarization of the border, the ongoing standoff in Eagle Pass between Texas, with support from other reactionary state governments like Florida, and the federal forces like Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Army, is one of the most serious manifestations of the extreme level of political polarization in the U.S. While the Biden administration might embrace Republican demands for even more militarization of the border, it also has the potential to sharpen into deeper conflict.

In this context, the organizers and activists in Eagle Pass are doing crucial work under very trying circumstances to support the right of immigrants to request asylum, and to stand against the racist anti-immigrant onslaught carried out by Governor Abbott and aided by national figures like Donald Trump.

This is why the Legalization for All Network organized their delegation, to amplify the voices of those organizers and show solidarity with them and with immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The delegation succeeded in supporting the struggle for immigrant rights on the front lines of the racist anti-immigrant attack in Texas, as well as deepening solidarity with immigrant rights organizers doing work on the front lines in Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras.

Amerika Garcia Grewal of the Eagle Pass Border Coalition, who helped host the delegation, said, “Our visitors inspired us with their personal attention and fresh insights in Saturday's workshop. They showed us how to turn our challenges into opportunities, and how to make a bigger impact in our community. Throughout their three-day visit their questions and concern for our community emphasized that we are not alone in our quest for justice and equality.”

A delegation member from Centro CSO, Los Angeles stated, “We hope to continue to solidify those relationships we made and continue to support them. What I learned by being on the ground in Eagle Pass is invaluable and I will be spreading that knowledge back home in Los Angeles.”

#EaglePassTX #ImmigrantRights #USMexicoBorder #L4A #CentroCSO #Feature