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Former Rio Grande City Mayor Reflects on Previous National Guard Deployment

2 years 3 months 4 weeks ago Friday, April 06 2018 Apr 6, 2018 April 06, 2018 5:57 PM April 06, 2018 in News

RIO GRANDE CITY – The National Guard is returning to the border. No plans on where they'll go or how many there will be just yet.

They were in the Rio Grande Valley in 2014.

A Starr County elected official said they helped his community.

Former Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal said he remembers the National Guard playing a silent and near-invisible role. He recalls best the way his city looked before and after their arrival.

Sitting now in his public relations office, Villarreal recalled the days before the National Guard was sent to the border in 2014.

"What was causing the panic at the time was the immigration crisis because a lot of the immigrants were hiding in garages, and hiding in people's yards, and walking into stores. They weren't the typical immigrant from Mexico. They were an immigrant from Central America who didn't know a lot of the nuances of the border. They did things very unconventionally, they would run into traffic trying to cross a very busy street," explained Villarreal.

A surge in Central Americans immigrating through the Valley sector sparked the deployment of 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border. 

Villarreal said their arrival provided relief in a community with strained resources.

"In a city like Rio Grande City, when I was mayor, we had two, maybe three officers for the whole town. What would happen commonly was that the immigrants would give themselves up, so I still have pictures where my officers were sitting under a tree with 10, 12, 20 immigrants waiting for Border Patrol to show up," said the former mayor. "That would take anywhere from 20 minutes up to two hours. So, instead of patrolling the streets, they were babysitting the immigrants."

Villarreal said the National Guard was mostly there to assist with vigilance and coordinate with law enforcement already on the border.

It's not known if the troops will revisit Starr County. Villarreal says he won't be surprised if they do.

"The issue of immigration and how it's been a revolving door, it's not new either," he said. 

He is hoping for more permanent solutions to the issues that still affect border counties like Starr.

The order issued by then Gov. Rick Perry in 2014 is still in effect.

The Office of the Governor informs us the mission is now titled Operation Secure Texas.

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