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In the midday heat of south Texas, pecan grower Magali Urbina had to contend with a scene common to the region: a dehydrated and injured immigrant family on their land.

Across from her, a Border Patrol agent was administering an IV in the arm of her father, a 32-year-old Venezuelan with dark bruises and fresh cuts. His body swells.

His 22-year-old wife sat next to him crying, while their two children, ages 5 and 8, looked on in horror.

“This barbed wire happens every day,” Urbina said, pointing to the jumble of barbed wire gleaming in the sun at Paradise Farm, which she and her husband Hugo manage in the small town of Eagle Pass.

“I’ve seen it every day this week,” he said. A few days earlier, he recalled helping a pregnant woman free from barbed wire..

Magali Urbina at her property near the Rio Grande border buoy.

Magali Urbina is engaged in pecan production.

controversial strategy

This Venezuelan family faces fallout from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border strategy: Floating barriers and banks on the Rio Grande River are surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by state and local police and the Texas National Guard.

State authorities said the program, dubbed Operation Lone Star, aimed to stop nearly 400,000 immigrants from entering the United States illegally, arrest more than 30,000 criminals and seize hundreds of millions of potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

“Until President (Joe) Biden reverses his open border policy and does his job keeping the border secure, Texas will continue to protect Texans and Americans from border chaosThe leaders of the operation said in a joint statement issued on July 18.

However, this strategy has been severely criticized by the Biden administration.

White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre recently called reports of migrant abuse by uniformed police officers in Texas “abhorrent” and “despicable.”

Sandwiched between the two fronts in this debate are the Eagle Pass is a town of about 30,000 residents located across the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Piedras Negras.

Venezuelan family escorted by Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass

Border Patrol provided aid to the Venezuelan families in Eagle Pass before taking them away.

“Territory Wars”

In Eagle Pass, authorities seized one of the city’s main parks, built a makeshift container wall and deployed a series of controversial buoys in the river to stop migrants, a move that has sparked local and federal lawsuits as well as Mexico’s diplomacy. condemn.

Critics of the buoys say they are a political stunt unlikely to have a significant impact on migrant flows.. Several groups of people have crossed the river near the barrier in recent days.

“They turned Eagle Pass into a war zone,” Jessie Fuentes, owner of a local kayaking company who is suing the Texas state over the buoys, told the BBC .

“I feel like I’m in a turf war between the federal government and the state governments.. In the middle is our community,” he added.

Fuentes, a retired professor and Eagle Pass resident, said Operation Lone Star completely changed his life. For his part, the border buoys thwarted his attempts to make more money and supplement his pension by offering kayak tours on the Rio Grande.

“My goal in life is to relax in that river and show people how beautiful it is,” he said. “But then hell. To me, it’s not politics. It’s another P, it’s personal. I cry when I see these obstacles”.

Nowhere in Eagle Pass has Operation Lone Star been more visible than at Paradise Farm, the Urbina family’s 300-acre pecan farm on the outskirts of Eagle Pass near A place for river buoys.

The outer fringes of properties along the Rio Grande were taken over by state authorities who erected dikes, barbed wire and closed fences in an attempt to keep migrants out of the country.

The Urbina family confirmed that despite their protests and pleas, the measures were taken for the safety of their property and the migrants..

“They invaded our property and militarized it. We couldn’t even enter the area,” Urbina said. “They basically stole and destroyed part of our property.”

Urbina said the constant movement of heavy trucks and military vehicles had affected the farm’s production levels, which he attributed to “the constant flow of dirt” in the air.

“It’s devastating for us”, explain. “They don’t even let Border Patrol work. It becomes an unsafe situation.”

economic benefits

Eagle Pass residents have traditionally had close ties to the Border Patrol. Residents across many political spectrums said they supported a strong border, even if they disagreed with Mr Abbott’s tactics and strategy.

“There’s been a lot of mixed reactions within the community because all the (immigrants) are on the streets or have been released,” said Pepe Aranda, a two-time former Eagle Pass mayor who now runs a real estate agency. explain.

“Currently very divided”.

Others pointed out that while the operation changed some areas of life in the city, it also brought benefits to certain sectors of the local economy.

“This is the part that no one wants to say out loud,” said a local businessman, who asked not to be named. ‘There’s a lot of money involved’.

Hotels, for example, were filled with National Guard and state troopers from out of town, while restaurants received a steady stream of uniformed personnel.

“I would say complex is the best word to describe what’s going on”Said Elías Díaz, member of the Eagle Pass City Council. “It’s a town that lacks a lot of infrastructure. Many people live in poverty.”

Temporary barriers at Hawkmouth Shelby Park

Shelby Park, near one of the Eagle Pass border crossings into Mexico, now has temporary barricades and police patrols.

“We’re seeing a lot of money being poured into the operation. Some of that is creating jobs for people and keeping hotels full,” Diaz added. “But at the same time, it’s doing nothing but creating chaos to try to stop immigration”.

Abbott and Texas officials ignored criticism of Operation Lone Star. They have dismissed claims that migrants have been mistreated and vowed to fight any legal challenge to their authority in court.

The federal government has launched a legal challenge to the river buoy and is investigating reports of mistreatment of migrants..

On the Eagle Pass scene, some said they feared their voices would be lost in the broader debate among politicians far from the border.

“Talk to us,” Fuentes pleaded. “Don’t come and build walls or barriers without really knowing our area. Don’t disrespect us”.

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