In March, the city of Presidio, Texas, near Big Bend National Park, will become the second port of entry in the country for so-called transmigrante travelers entering the United States. Transmigrantes travel from Central America through Mexico and into the United States to salvage and buy goods and then refurbish and sell them back in their home countries.
Abbie Perrault is managing editor of the Big Bend Sentinel. She says the Mexican government’s decision to add the Presidio port could be a boon for that border city.
Why the new transmigrante port?
The Mexican government decides where transmigrates can leave and reenter Mexico, and normally that has been through Los Indios in Far South Texas, near Harlingen. Mexico had been hinting for years that it would add a second port, and in December, it announced the Presidio port, indirectly, through a government publication.
How will Presidio benefit?
The port could be a boon to the local economy because transmigrates have to stay in the city for 24 hours while Mexican officials inspect their goods before they can pass back into Mexico. Perrault says entire cottage industries have sprung up in Los Indios to service transmigrantes, and the same could happen in Presidio.
“Los Indios is full of brokers and businesses that cater to this. There’s definitely a lot of clientele that take advantage of this program,” Perrault said. “So finding lodging and restaurants and offering services to them is what Presidio’s looking to do now.”
Are there possible downsides?
Perrault says there’s been cartel activity near Los Indios, where people stop transmigrantes on the street and demand money or take their goods. So Presidio, as well as Ojinaga, Mexico, across the border, will have to try to mitigate that risk, she says.
Presidio can’t do it alone
Perrault says the city needs the support of the federal government to operate the port effectively and be able to take advantage of the potential economic benefits – as well as to dissuade potential cartel activity once the port opens. Help is especially needed because Presidio has only a couple months to prepare. Perrault says the Mexican government’s decision “put them back on their heels”; they weren’t expecting it.
The upside is that the port has the potential to transform Presidio.
“A lot of transformations; this is definitely a big one for them,” she said.