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Monday, May 20, 2024

Eagle Pass has been invaded, and not by immigrants

Eagle Pass, this once sleepy Texas town, has been overrun by a swarm of agents and officers in the wake of Governor Greg Abbott's war on immigrants on America's southern border.

Eagle Pass has been invaded, and not by immigrants
Jessie Fuentes stands during a vigil on Aug. 7 organized by Eagle Pass residents to protest Gov. Greg Abbot's policies and to remember migrants who died crossing the Rio Grande. Fuentes owns a kayak business in Eagle Pass, which he started after retirement to offer tours of the river. According to Manuel Ortiz, Fuentes is a deeply spiritual man and a lover of nature. He sees Abbot's barriers as a violation of life, both of people and of the natural world. "What the government is doing here is killing the river? They are destroying our community." (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)

This once sleepy town is now inundated with border agents, police and soldiers, the fruit of the Texas governor's war on immigrants.

“When you approach Eagle Pass from San Antonio, is there nothing for miles around? and then you hear the helicopters.

That's how he describes this small Texas town that has now become a flashpoint in the ongoing fight over immigration policy. What used to be "a passing town," says Ortiz, has been invaded right now, and not by immigrants.

"Everywhere you see police, border agents, soldiers," says Ortiz, describing how he packed his laptop at a local Starbucks to attend a press conference on the situation at the border. “It was full of police officers and agents. So I had to sit outside," he explains.

The scene Ortiz describes is the result of Governor Abbott's increasingly brutal policies attempting to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the southern border, most of whom are women, children, mothers and fathers fleeing appalling conditions. in their countries of origin.

Manuel Ortiz, a sociologist, journalist and documentary director for Ethnic Media Services and Peninsula 360 Press, reports that even those who favor strong border security find Governor Abbot's new policies too extreme.

Ortiz's photos, taken during a recent trip to the region, paint a bleak picture of the hope and despair that drive immigrants, on the one hand; and the brutal measures advocated by officials like Abbott and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, on another. Floating spiked barriers, buzz saws and barbed wire line stretches of the Rio Grande that separate Eagle Pass from Piedras Negras on the Mexican side, while around the scorched ground lies the debris of passing immigrants: tattered shoes, bottles empty water

An exhausted three-year-old boy looks up at a state trooper as his father and mother, their faces sunburned, crouch in the shade of a tree, assuring him that they will bring him food. They wait, hopeful but uncertain.

This is a community with deep and storied ties that transcend the border, says Ortiz, ties that will not be severed by floating death traps and barbed wire? images one would normally associate with places like the DMZ that separates North and South Korea. In fact, he says, Eagle Pass residents are fighting back — even Abbot's former supporters now say his policies have gone too far.

People like Jessie Fuentes, who has a kayak business in Eagle Pass, or Mother Isabel Turcio, director of Casa Frontera Digna in Piedras Negras -where up to 100 immigrants are given shelter and food a day- are organizing to protest against measures that they qualify as inhumane; measures to inflict bodily harm on exhausted and impoverished people who - as generations before them have done - were seeking refuge, safety and the opportunity for a better life in America.

"This country was made by migrants," says Ortiz. “And what Abbot is doing is treating immigrants as enemies. He is waging a war against migrants, who are the very people who built this country."

Floating barriers topped with spikes and interspersed with circular saws line stretches of the Rio Grande that separate Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico. The barriers, which were recently linked to the discovery of two bodies, are part of the increasingly tough crackdown Texas Gov. Greg Abbot is taking. (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
Many of the migrants are women, children, mothers and fathers. According to Ortiz, they arrive full of hope, after arduous travel, believing that once on US soil they will find refuge, which is often not a fact, since many are detained and deported within 24 hours, while others face arrest on charges trespassing, they are jailed for up to two weeks and then sent back across the border. (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
"When people cross the river, sometimes they lose their shoes," says Ortiz. “I saw migrants with only one shoe or without shoes. So, I started taking pictures of what people leave behind. Sometimes the shoes are so worn? migrants meet others along the way. There are face masks and water bottles. There are many shoes.» (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
Mother Isabel Turcio runs Casa Frontera Digna Piedras Negras, a shelter that shelters and feeds up to 100 migrants a day. Turcio joined a vigil at Eagle Pass held just 2-3 meters from the Rio Grande. Participants placed white flowers in honor of those who died crossing the river. "This is what the border looks like," says Ortiz. "It's ugly". (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
Eagle Pass residents hold signs reading Rest In Peace, in honor of Felecita Lucrecia, who died trying to cross the border. "It's a tricky river," says Ortiz, shallow in parts, but with shitty currents and places where the depth can change suddenly. Migrants can sometimes succumb to heat stroke while crossing, while Abbot's barriers are in shallower sections, forcing migrants to cross in deeper water. (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
Few people in Eagle Pass advocate open borders, Ortiz says. But there is a "difference between a controlled border and the war zone that exists now." The army of agents and officials, he adds, are not there to stop drug traffickers, are they there to intimidate children, mothers, fathers? And the aggression is not only against migrants, the people in Eagle Pass are also being affected. (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)
This family is from Ecuador, the only migrants Ortiz knew from that country. (Most, he says, were Venezuelans.) They told Ortiz that they traveled 26 days to reach the US border. The child is 3 years old. He was so hungry and thirsty, Ortiz explained, adding that the parents told him how US border agents threw water bottles at them as they crossed the river. The empty bottles are visible from the father's side. Above them is a Texas State Police officer, watching them as they await the arrival of border agents. The family was arrested for trespassing, Ortiz says. (Credit: Manuel Ortiz)

This note was originally published on Ethnic Media Services, and you can check it by clicking here.

This publication was supported in whole or part by funding provided by the State of California, ayou administeredred by the CaliFornia State Library.

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