El Paso Mayor Assesses Situation At The U.S. Border With Mexico
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's go now to one of the cities that's being impacted by all of this that John mentioned, the city of El Paso, Texas. We have the city's mayor on the line with us, Dee Margo.
Mayor, thanks for taking the time. We appreciate it.
DEE MARGO: Sure. Happy to be here.
GREENE: John describing there migrants being held in pens underneath a highway bridge. Have you seen this?
MARGO: Yes. I have. He's correct.
GREENE: Can you...
MARGO: They're overwhelmed.
GREENE: Describe that to me, if you can.
MARGO: Well, the problem is the numbers that he referred to. You know, in fiscal year 2017, we had 12,000 come north from Central America that affected it in our fiscal year for El Paso. In '18, we had 18,000. Our fiscal year is 9-1 to 8-31. Since 9-1 of last year, to date, we've had 50,000 in El Paso. And it's all as a result of - excuse me - the laws. CBP's doing all they can do. ICE is doing all they can do. But people don't understand that there wasn't - the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008...
MARGO: ...Which was a magnanimous gesture on behalf of our nation because of Central American youth and unaccompanied minors coming through Mexico up to the United States - we were concerned about the Mexican cartels grabbing these children or young people and turning them into drug mules or human trafficking that we made it easier to have asylum declared at our borders from Central America. The irony of it is that this law doesn't apply to Mexico. That's why we're not having the Mexicans come across.
GREENE: But you're saying that that law is what's leading to these big numbers that we're seeing today?
MARGO: I can guarantee it is. It is. It makes it too easy to...
GREENE: What is the solution?
MARGO: ...Except for asylum.
GREENE: What is the solution? What are you calling on Congress to do, if that's who you're pointing the finger at here?
MARGO: Well, they've got to revamp this law and the whole immigration process. They've not done anything for 30 years. There's been no intestinal fortitude exhibited on either side of the aisle, and our president needs to take the lead there. That's the humanitarian crisis, is changing the law. That's the problem.
GREENE: Can I just ask you - I mean, one person who has thought about this, the border, a lot is President Trump. And he just sent out a tweet just a few minutes ago. I mean, he said Mexico is doing nothing to help stop the flow of immigrants, that they're all talk and no action, and he says may close the southern border, exclamation point. Would that be helpful?
MARGO: From my vantage point, no. We have a hundred billion-plus in trade back and forth in imports and exports. We have six of the 28 bridges that cross from Texas to Mexico. They're taking people off our bridges. The wait time - we have 23,000 legal pedestrians that come north every day. We've got 13 million vehicles that come north every year. It affects us all the way around, from commerce - and the wait times on the bridges are approaching two hours. That's an environmental issue, while cars are just sitting there idling. It's a major problem. But the issue is not just Mexico and whatever they're doing. The issue is the lack of action by our Congress to deal with this.
GREENE: What does your city need most right now in dealing with these numbers going up so high?
MARGO: Well, we have an NGO called the Annunciation House that's processing them. They're not here longer than usually 24 to 48 hours, but we're becoming overwhelmed with the numbers. And our city office of emergency management does whatever it can do in the way of providing security and sometimes our - transportation is required. But you also have a lot of these migrants that are coming north with chicken pox, and mumps and things like that. So there are significant health issues.
GREENE: Dee Margo is the mayor of El Paso, Texas, joining us this morning. Thank you so much, Mayor.
MARGO: You bet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.