Deportation fears mount along the border as enforcement ramps up

Mexican flag flying side-by-side with Texas flag in McAllen (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
Mexican flag flying side-by-side with Texas flag in McAllen (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

MCALLEN, Texas (KXAN) — Memos from the Department of Homeland Security show the Trump Administration is following through with President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of increasing and speeding up deportation of people here illegally. While he says criminals will be priorities, people who don’t have a criminal record in the Rio Grande Valley are still on edge.

Fearing deportation, Florensia granted KXAN an interview, but only if we agreed to not show her face and not publish her last name. Fleeing violence, she came here illegally 14 years ago for better opportunities with her husband, who’s now in an immigration detention center, leaving her to look after six children.

She says she’s worried about Immigration and Customs Enforcement increasing deportations because they could come for her, which would leave their children without either of their parents. Florensia’s youngest children were born in America; her teenagers can stay under an Obama-era program that the Trump administration plans to continue.

Florensia lives in one of the Colonias, the neighborhoods that pop up in between the big cities in the Rio Grande Valley. Most don’t have street lights. Most don’t have indoor plumbing. Many of the families living in the Colonias are made up of citizens and non-citizen, which is common in McAllen, where the Mexican flag stands alongside the Texas flag at city hall.

An estimated 50,000 people in Hidalgo County are here illegally, according to data by KXAN’s media partner the Texas Tribune. The mayor of McAllen hopes the increased enforcement doesn’t cut the ties between Texas and Mexico.

“We have tens of thousands of people coming across that bridge every day doing legitimate business and everything,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. “The average Mexican would be much more concerned about border wait times.”

Florensia says she doesn’t make enough money as a maid to go through the process to stay here legally.

The new sweeping immigration policy calls for the deportation of any individuals in the country illegally if they are convicted, charged or suspected of a crime, which could include traffic infractions. The policy is also calling for some people caught crossing the Mexican border illegally to be sent back to Mexico, regardless of where they came from.

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