Migrants on school buses? Texas town feels caught in the middle

By Alexandra Ulmer

DEL RIO, Texas (Reuters) -Many residents of the Texan border town of Del Rio have been saying for months that they feel abandoned by the federal government as border arrests hit 20-year highs.

Now, with several thousand migrants sheltering in precarious conditions under the International Bridge connecting Del Rio and Mexico’s Ciudad Acuña, the resentment is getting worse.

On Friday night, a local lawyer published a Facebook post saying that local school district buses were transferring migrants, mostly Haitians, to processing facilities.

“THE SAME BUSES OUR CHILDREN WILL RIDE ON MONDAY!!!!” Jacques De La Mota wrote alongside pictures of a yellow school bus seemingly picking up migrants in the dark.

De La Mota’s post was shared at least 1,400 times and received more than 300 comments, many from local residents who said they were worried about diseases. But some called out what they said was barely-veiled racism. “This post is giving me segregation vibes,” read one comment.

The local school district superintendent issued a statement explaining that only two buses, neither currently in use to transport students, had been deployed.

De La Mota told Reuters he was simply concerned about health and angry that the district was enlisted to help solve a federal problem.

The uproar over school buses is just one example of discontent over immigration in this town of 35,000, where some 85% of the community is Hispanic and the nearby Laughlin Air Force Base is a big employer.

Many residents are also furious over the closure of the International Bridge, ordered on Friday due to the crowds of migrants, that is inflicting economic pain on both sides of the border.

A small group protested on Saturday, with one woman waving a sign that said “BIDEN BORDER CRISIS.” Another driver, going over the bridge when it was still open last week, looked down at the huddled migrants and grumbled that Del Rio residents might as well move over to Mexico.


Val Verde County, whose county seat is Del Rio, went for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by a ten-point margin in the 2020 election, with some approving of his hardline immigration policies. Del Rio’s mayor Bruno Lozano has made no qualms about calling out his fellow Democrat president.

“Where is your plan to protect American communities at the southern border?” Lozano tweeted on Saturday. “I spoke to Governor Abbott today. We have developed a temporary plan, we’d like to see yours.”

Arguing that Biden’s promise of a more “humane” approach to migration has galvanized crossings, Greg Abbott, a Republican, has cracked down.

Among his measures: Apprehending migrants for allegedly trespassing on private property and preparing to build some of the border wall Trump promised, whose construction Biden paused.

Abbott, who faces a gubernatorial primary in March, has been criticized for his response to a devastating February storm and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The border issue could be a boon for him and Republicans more broadly, said James Henson, director of The Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s a good issue for Republicans as it taps into a growing nativist sentiment in the Texas GOP,” said Henson.

De La Mota, himself the descendant of Mexicans who immigrated several generations ago, is a registered Democrat who said the border crisis means Biden can no longer automatically count on his vote. “It causes me to reconsider what I would do in the next cycle,” he said.

School Board member Joshua D. Overfelt, who wrote in a statement that he opposed the request for buses because there was no guarantee migrants were not carrying “multiple diseases,” said that while he felt sorry for the asylum-seekers, he had to balance that with residents’ feelings of being overrun.

He recalled his father’s fright in May when he walked into his barn towards his tractor and discovered 13 Mexican migrants hiding there.

“The community is just caught in between,” he told Reuters.

To be sure, there are also residents in Del Rio mobilizing to help migrants.

Some 35 locals volunteer at Del Rio’s sole facility to care for migrants, said Tiffany Burrow, the director of operations. Burrow said there are “misconceptions” in the community about their work, including false assumptions that the organization pays for migrants’ travels onwards in the United States.

“We don’t focus so much on the political aspect but rather the idea of helping our neighbor,” said Burrow. “When you’re doing it from that motive, it’s not as controversial.”

(Writing by Alexandra UlmerEditing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Church Shooting in Texas kills 26, injures 20, Victims from age 5 to 72, suspect is dead

FBI officials arrive at the site of a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media

By Kami Klein

On this quiet Autumn morning in Sutherland Springs, Texas, worshipers at the First Baptist Church,  whose members spanned generations, were gathered together for their Sunday morning worship service. This is the kind of church that many were raised in and then brought up their own children, the kind of church where everyone was family.  At approximately, 11:30 am  a young man in his twenties burst through the doors and immediately began firing indiscriminately.  After pausing to reload, the gunman continued to spray the church hitting men, women and children as they frantically tried to escape.  The evil continued leaving 26 dead and at least 20 wounded.  The victims ranging in age from 5 to 72.  Because of the seriousness of  the injuries, the sheriff’s office has said that the death toll could rise.   Some of the church members did escape although that amount has not yet been released. Witnesses are currently being questioned.

Police were notified by a phone call when the suspect had exited his vehicle at a gas station close to the church wearing all black tactical clothing gear and a ballistic vest.  The suspect began shooting at the church before entering and continued to fire.  Bullets flew as he exited the building where a neighbor engaged in gunfire with the shooter.  A car chase ensued,  ending in a crash where the death of the suspect was confirmed.  It is not known if the shooter committed suicide or was injured by the shoot out in front of the church.

The name of the suspect has not yet been released while federal, state and local authorities sift through the crime scenes.

The devastated community of Sutherland Springs located 40 miles Southeast of San Antonio  with a little more than 800 residents and surrounding small Texas towns, rushed to gather at the community center just down the street from this horrible attack.  These people are neighbors, family, friends and coworkers.  Other area churches emptied and prayer vigils began in an attempt to give some peace and comfort for those suffering from the shock and pain of this tragedy.  Answers have come slowly and has been agony for those waiting.

More information will be released after next of kin of those killed have been informed and allow family members to arrange to travel to San Antonio  to those that are injured.  The Texas police, Governor Abbott and the Federal authorities ask that the media respect all of those involved while they continue to search for answers.