McAllen mayor says number of asylum seekers drops dramatically

Mayor Javier Villalobos also says Operation Lone Star has been good to the local economy.

MCALLEN, Texas — For the first time ever, authorities made more than two million immigration arrests along the southern border in the fiscal year that just ended. In August alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained nearly 204,000 migrants crossing from Mexico.

While Governor Greg Abbott says it’s a burden on state resources, McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos says his city isn’t spending any extra dollars on the issue.

“What is has changed for us, it’s kind of beneficial, a lot of the asylum seekers, the numbers have gone down drastically for us, from last year 1,500 a day to now maybe 100 plus. And that’s what we deal with. What we don’t deal with is the other immigrants that try to pass illegally. That’s what the border patrol and everybody else is dealing with,” the Mayor said on Inside Texas Politics.

The Mayor says those crossing the border rarely intend to stay there, but will instead head north to find higher paying jobs in places like Houston, Dallas, New York and Chicago.  

And he says the border crossing issues they saw a year ago in McAllen, the southern tip of Texas, have shifted up towards Laredo and Eagle Pass.

“So, is it a burden? It is a burden in a sense for us logistically because we have to utilize some of our manpower to assist the federal government with those issues. But right now, we’re fortunate that it’s not too bad,” he said.

Governor Abbott’s plan to deal with illegal immigration has been Operation Lone Star, which has thousands of members of the Texas National Guard and state police patrolling the border. 

But The Texas Tribune recently reported that the number of migrant encounters at the Texas-Mexico border is higher today than it was before the Governor initiated his program.

While Operation Lone Star has been controversial to some, according to our most recent poll “Texas Decides,” a joint effort between the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (THPF) and Tegna Texas stations WFAA, KHOU, KENS and KVUE, a majority of Texans support the extra manpower.

60% of likely Texas voters support the state deploying both the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety to patrol the border. And 66% support the arrest of people who cross the border illegally.

Villalobos, the first Republican mayor in McAllen in decades, says there’s been nothing controversial about the impact all of those extra bodies are having on the local community.

“We’ve been doing great. We’re blessed. For example the hotels, they’re full,” Villalobos told us.  “We were ranked the sixth safest city in the country, second best as far as violent crime in the state of Texas. I don’t know if that attributes anything to how we’re ranked. But we are a very good and safe place.”

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