Though seven Texas Republicans hold powerful committee chairmanships, the Lone Star State is notably absent in party leadership roles, despite sending more Republicans to the Hill than any other state.
A little more little influence in Washington is something the mayor of McAllen could use right now. Since April 2014, a surge of would-be immigrants began streaming across the state’s southern border and McAllen has spent a lot of money on humanitarian relief efforts – money they can’t possibly make up in tax revenue.
Jim Darling, mayor of McAllen, has asked the federal government for reimbursement of $500,000 that his city has spent. Including county services and those expenses of neighboring cities, the aid provided totals around $1 million.
“We keep track of it according to FEMA rules, because we’re experienced with that,” he says, “so when the feds, when they do decide to reimburse us, it’ll be easy to do with the county.”
Costs come from lost revenue from diverted resources and for renting toilet and tent facilities McAllen provided for the people coming into the city. Darling says the families they deal with are released by the federal government to McAllen, the end point where their sponsors are.
“They drop them off at our bus station and when they do drop them off, they’re in pretty bad condition,” he says. “A lot of dehydration, diarrhea, primarily because the 30-day journey through Mexico is pretty arduous.”
Many of them arrive at night and the buses don’t leave until the morning, so people have nowhere to go, Darling says.
“They’ll be walking around our city, sleeping on our sidewalks, et cetera, so we really think if it was going to be part of the full process… that they shouldn’t be released until they’re ready to leave our area,” he says. “They kind of, for lack of a better term, they’re getting dumped on our streets and our bus station.”
Darling says the city of McAllen is part of the process that Border Patrol has taken over.
“We think they do a great job – they’re just not geared up for this,” he says. “And after two and a half years, I’m sure they would rather go back to doing what they got trained to do, which is to protect the border from that standpoint instead of processing all these people.
“We’re an extension of this whole process of people seeking asylum and providing something that the federal government can’t provide – or won’t provide,” he says, “and that is keeping them in shelters until they really have a place to leave, to get on the buses.”
Darling says they’re also doing a favor to Dallas and Houston, by taking care of people in McAllen before they leave.
“Many of these kids, if they left our bus station in the condition they arrived, without some Pedialyte and basic health and hygiene,” he says, “would arrive in Dallas or Houston or their final destination a lot worse.”
Last year the city thought they would get FEMA money, because Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar worked to secure a line item for reimbursements for humanitarian aid to be sent to McAllen, Darling says.
“At that point, we were kind of told that it was related to – that FEMA should only be used for natural disasters, this wasn’t a natural disaster,” he says. “Whatever excuses those were… So we actually had money a year ago designated to us from the federal government, and we didn’t get it to this date.”
Post by Hannah McBride.