A slew of Texas politicians want us to abandon our welcoming tradition in order to exploit our divisions and distract from their corruption.
I was 10 years old when my family packed our whole life into our van and left northern California for South Texas. We had enough saved to get us to Texas and the new opportunities it offered, but little else. When we got here, we encountered what I now know is a Texas tradition: new neighbors who welcomed us with a helping hand. If you can believe it, a man let us stay in his unoccupied trailer rent-free until we got back on our feet.
Texans care for our neighbors, look out for each other, and believe in respecting and embracing people with the courage to move here for a better life. When asylum seeking families and other new immigrants began arriving at our doorstep in large numbers eight years ago, South Texans rose to the occasion. Thousands of our neighbors of all races and backgrounds offered a hand. What became the Humanitarian Respite Center started with women filling their trunks with supplies they collected from their churches and delivering them to immigrants stranded at the McAllen bus station. Together, we have served meals at humanitarian shelters, donated diapers and socks, and given immigrant families rides to the bus station and airport.
There is nothing special about those of us who have volunteered to welcome asylum seekers. Most of us are doing what our parents taught us to do–work hard and treat each other right. In fact, I have volunteered alongside my parents, who remembered what it was like to move here and receive a warm welcome.
As President Biden takes steps to increase access to asylum, a slew of state politicians are trying to get us pointing fingers at asylum seekers and new immigrants. Instead, we must recommit to Texas’s welcoming tradition and extend a hand.
A federal court has temporarily blocked the lifting of Title 42. Under that policy, the government rapidly expels most people seeking safety at the Southern Border. Even with Title 42 in place, President Biden’s administration has taken steps to increase access to asylum. Thousands of new migrants as well as those previously expelled under Title 42 are arriving with the hopes of making their case for protection in the United States.
The same politicians sounding the alarm at the increase of asylum seekers have demonstrated little interest in proposing solutions to the challenges Texans face. Across race, place, and background, Texans know our worth. We are worth paychecks that equal the true value of our work. We are worth quality schools that teach the truth of our past. We are worth clean air, water, and energy that our families can depend on.
We are worth more than this current crop of politicians who throw fuel on our divisions to distract from their corruption. They spread lies about our elections, exploit lack of familiarity with transgender people, and point the finger at people seeking safety at our doorstep.
Politicians in power in our state take the resources our schools, communities, and families need and hand them to the wealthiest corporations. Governor Greg Abbott, for instance, has misused millions of taxpayer dollars to fund border walls and militarize border communities under Operation Lone Star. Meanwhile our schools struggle without the funding to provide every child with a quality education.
When we extend a hand instead of pointing fingers, we can fight together for the things all Texans need to thrive.
Our welcoming tradition recognizes that all Texans, regardless of the color of our skin or where we were born, can come together to create a better future for our state. Together, we can ensure that every Texan in every corner of our state has the freedom to thrive, no exceptions.
The weeks and months to come will be incredibly challenging for asylum seekers and our city leaders and humanitarian organizations who are receiving them. Just like in the past, we will need to come together to give asylum seekers a warm welcome. Small humanitarian organizations like Asylum Seeker Network of Support, the Sidewalk School, Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, and Team Brownsville are preparing for the challenge. But they need funds to shelter and provide clothes, diapers, and meals to arriving asylum seekers. We can all do our part by donating to humanitarian groups. Together, we can ensure that Texas’s welcoming tradition continues for all who have the courage to move here for a better life.
John-Michael Torres is Communications Coordinator with La Unión del Pueblo Entero