Some 15 thousand Haitian migrants put Del Rio, a small U.S border town, on the map. They huddled together with minimal care under the bridge connecting to the Mexican town Acuna until they were hastily removed by embarrassed U.S. authorities. Some were flown back to Haiti, others crossed the river to Acuna, where Mexican authorities pushed them out. A few thousand were sent by bus and plane to sent to various parts of the U.S. where they will probably be allowed to stay.
Today no trace of them remains under the bridge or the debris they let behind. Rio is is back to normal which means daily contact with Acuna. While migrants reach the town illegitimately by crossing the Rio Grande – the border – others legitimately use the bridge for their every day needs. Since almost all are Hispanic – same looks, same language – it’s sometimes hard to distinguish legal from illegal, as the Border Patrol has found.
But there’s one major distinction, according to residents. The people of del Rio who took the cumbersome route of becoming U.S. citizens, resent the illegals who may reap the same benefits by just showing up. It’s definitely not fair, they say, which explains a much higher Hispanic vote for Trump in the last election.
Bob Kapoor, a central fixture of del Rio, tracks the changing moods of his town. Owner of a hotel in the center of town, “Whispering Palms,” with a parrot that doesn’t whisper but whistles, he also manages an orphanage for 25 abandoned children in Acuna. If all roads don’t lead to Del Rio, his certainly did from a highly successful travel agency business to a snug perch on the border where he can sample two cultures.
As the migration crisis grows, Governor Abbott is under pressures to close the border, a difficult undertaking considering political opposition and limited resources. On a trip outside town with Bob and his wife Jyoti we came upon his efforts which are problematic. A fence under construction was quite a distance from the border. We asked a supervisor for the reason. He wasn’t sure. Perhaps we knew. It was also less than half the height of the thirty foot Trump fence which can be scaled by agile migrants. A worker explained that this fence is not meant to be climbed but to funnel migrants along the road into the waiting arms of state troopers. Governor Abbott assured Tucker Carlson that this will work. We’ll see.
I was surprised to find many pleasant homes along this scenic stretch of border. Isn’t it something of a risk living here? It’s possible that the drug cartels tell crossers not to make trouble for the homeowners. It’s bad for business, which comes first. It may also be the case that come what may – say, another flood of unwelcome guests – the people of Del Rio as well as others on the border will continue to lead their customary lives despite outside pressures. It’s a way of life.