Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Old Valley Home: Ground Zero In The Debate Over Illegal Immigration

Until the last few weeks, few people knew or wondered much about the area known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

About the only time you heard of the Valley was an occasional mention on the national news, such as if a big hurricane was about to make landfall off the Gulf of Mexico (like Hurricane Allen in 1980, or Beulah in 1967).

An oil spill from an offshore rig in Mexico's Bay of Campeche in 1979 made our beaches (and those of most of Texas) not a good spot for vacationers.

Rock and roll pioneer Bill Haley died in semi-seclusion in a house off S. First Street in Harlingen, TX. A few years later, President Ronald Reagan said the following in warning of the Communist-backed Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua taking over that nation.
"It'd mean consolidation of a privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just two days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas."
But now, the Valley (as it is known to locals) is now on the front pages of newspapers and the subject of cable news, as it is now ground-zero in the subject of illegal immigration and border security. Nancy Bella-Pelosi made the trip last month to use these children as political props. Sean Hannity broadcast his Fox News TV show down there last week with Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Glenn Beck, along with Dana Loesch and Congressman Louie Gohmert, are down there this weekend.

But even though it has taken the influx of unaccompanied minors swarming across the Rio Grande River, and the disconnected attitude of the Obama Regime towards the problem, the issue of illegal aliens is not new to the area, to those who've lived down there and those who still do.

I should know, because I know the Valley really well. I grew up there from the time I was five, in 1974, until I left in 1992 to start on my road as an adult.  So much has changed during that time--some of it for the good, some, for the bad.

South Padre Island was, even back in the mid-1970s, once a place with two motels and a bunch of beachhouses. Now, it's full of high-rise condos, a water park and a Spring Break attraction. Hotel rooms, even for dumpy, roach-infested ones, are outrageously expensive.  The NAFTA treaty has led to the growth of border cities like McAllen and Brownsville.

Border towns were once safe to go to for a nice dinner, or shop for cheap booze, cigarettes, etc. As a young boy, I went with my parents several times to Reynosa (across the border from McAllen) for dinner at Trevino's or Sam's, and shopping at the sidewalk shops. High school students took advantage of the lax drinking laws in Mexico to engage in underage drinking.

But since the big peso devaluation in the early 1980s and the corruption of the Mexican government, illegal immigration has been on the rise in areas like the Valley for many years. With that came the emergence of the drug cartels in the mid-1980s, kidnapping DEA agents, and even the disappearance and ritual-killing of a UT-Austin student on Spring Break, after he was kidnapped outside a Matamoros, Mexico bar by a Satanic drug gang who thought human sacrifice would keep the authorities away from them.  In the last few years, violence from the drug cartels has plagued the border cities like Matamoros and Reynosa, so much that locals no longer visit like they once did. The one exception from many friends still in the area is the town of Progresso.

Ever since the 1980s, the number of illegal aliens has risen. The last attempt at "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" in 1986 did nothing to stem the tide. In fact, that amnesty encouraged more illegal immigration.  If you were driving up Highway 77 (now to be Interstate 69) on the King Ranch, you hoped you didn't have car trouble or avoided a bathroom break because some drivers had physical confrontations with illegals who were crossing across ranchland. I remember seeing a Valley Transit Company bus stop along the side of Hwy 77 and pick up a couple of people walking along the road, miles past the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint.  There were stories almost weekly of tractor-trailer trucks filled with illegals, including tragic stories of some who died in these trailers.

When I was a summer intern for a newspaper in the Valley back in the early 1990s, I had the chance to accompany the US Border Patrol and watch firsthand the job they do as they apprehended illegal aliens coming off a train from the border that was stopped near a beer distributor's warehouse, near the intersection of Hwy. 77 and TX 100 between Harlingen and Brownsville.  It was an eye-opening experience to watch the job of our Border Patrol and to see the faces of those who were sneaking across our border illegally.

But the problem has only gotten worse since then. Add to that how both political parties, even since George W. Bush, have offered some kind of de-facto amnesty with vague promises of border security that never materialize. It's only gotten worse during the Obama years, with executive orders that enacted the DREAM Act in 2012, and his threat of more executive orders on immigration. All it has done is encouraged more illegal immigration like what we are seeing now. The unsecured border is even open for those from other nations that are hostile to the United States.  I heard Gov. Rick Perry mention that to Sean Hannity last week. I've noted stories for years of Afghans and others linked to Hezbollah found or suspected to be in the border area.

I was last in the Valley back in June of 2012 for a high-school reunion. A couple of months later, my parents moved out of the home they had in the area for 34 years to Central Texas. So much had changed.  The border and drug cartels were always news down there. Houses are commonly found to be used as stash houses for immigrants and drugs. In fact, I have a real sinking suspicion that may be what has happened to a house my great-grandfather built near the then-Harlingen airbase in the late 1940s and ran a well-know floral nursery that my grandparents ran until the late 1980s.

I hadn't seen the house since my grandmother's passing in 1998. After a few break-ins and a fire, my parents were able to sell the house to a family, who, after a year had to relocate and sold it to a guy who said he was going to run a flea-market. Bars were put up on the front porch and sometimes a tractor trailer was parked outside.  When I went to visit this house that was a big part of my life, I was not able to explore or even go to the front door, as a pit bull on a leash came to greet me. I saw a couple of roosters walking around on the driveway near the house.  Ever since then, I always wondered if my grandparent's house is now a stash house of some kind.

Now, what the Valley has known for years is now news to the rest of America, and our political class. 

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