EAGLE PASS, Texas — A week after 17,000 migrants were cleared from an encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio, the neighboring border city of Eagle Pass is now on alert.
With word that thousands of asylum-seeking migrants are on their way to Texas, city and county leaders are working to ensure the same scene doesn’t unfold in their town.
“We saw the situation in Del Rio, and we definitely don't want a situation like that to happen in Eagle Pass,” said Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas.
Salinas said Eagle Pass has seen a surge of its own this year.
“Believe or not, it is still a hotspot,” Salinas said.
He says a massive influx of migrants, like that which the City of Del Rio recently experienced, would overwhelm city and county resources already stretched thin.
“We can't sustain thousands of people in our community,” said Salinas.
He said local leaders have been meeting with officials in Mexico for weeks, preparing in the case they see thousands of asylum-seekers at their doorstep.
“One of the things that they're going to do is have a lot of checkpoints on the Mexican side so that they can make sure that the buses that are coming with people are stopped and are prevented to enter Coahuila, and in turn, they won't be coming through this port,” Salinas said.
Another potential action Salinas said he’s doing everything to avoid is closing the Eagle Pass Port of Entries after Del Rio authorities were forced to shut down their own bridge for a week.
“We have billions of dollars of commercial traffic and goods that cross through the Eagle Pass port,” said Salinas. “We’re very proud of that.”
Salinas said the tolls at the international bridges bring in $12 million a year in revenue for the city, and shutting them down would hugely impact the city budget.
But the closures would also have a major impact on the small businesses in downtown Eagle Pass, already hit hard by the non-essential travel ban brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jaime Rodriguez is the third generation to operate Eagle Grocery and Market in downtown Eagle Pass.
“This business is one of the longest-standing, independently owned businesses in the area,” said Rodriguez.
A block away from International Bridge One, Eagle Grocery and Market has operated for over 80 years.
“Our business was 70% dependent on a Mexican nationals coming across,” said Rodriguez.
He said when the federal government shut down the bridges to non-essential travel last year during the height of the pandemic, business suffered for all of the shops and markets near the port of entry.
“If you drive around downtown Eagle Pass, it's pretty much a ghost town. A lot of businesses have closed their doors,” said Salinas. “It has a crippling effect on our daily impact.”
A crippling loss of over 4,000 transactions a month at Eagle Grocery and Market, according to Rodriguez.
He said a complete shutdown of the bridges would hit businesses still trying to survive, and have a major impact on his employees, most of whom live in Mexico.
“If they shut down the international bridge, not only my labor force, but I think 50% labor force of this whole community would be affected because our workforce couldn't come across,” said Rodriguez.