Travel Alert for Snowbird Winter Texans

The Rio Grande Valley, winter home for thousands of Canadian and American snowbirds (also known as Winter Texans), has become the epicentre for an unprecedented surge of illegal immigrants from Central America—most of them children fleeing home due to gang-related violence and killings.

According to reports from the Associated Press, in the first week of June alone, US Border Patrol agents in the area south of the town of Mission (encompassing McAllen, Donna, Edinburg, Weslaco, Mercedes, and Harlingen) have arrested more than 2,800 illegal migrants (mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala), making it the highest-volume arrest zone on the entire US southern border. More than 60 per cent of those arrested have been children. AP also reports that the Border Patrol has made more than 194,000 arrests in the Rio Grande Valley sector since last October.

According to recent polls of likely US voters, nearly half of the respondents believe the surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border has been enabled by the president himself, who has indicated he does not favour mass deportations. Texas Governor Rick Perry says the surge of immigrants has resulted in a “humanitarian crisis” and he has appealed to President Obama to station National Guard troops along the border sector to coordinate with local and state law enforcement—a move the president has so far resisted.

Some history: Bush Proposal Prompted Surge in Illegal Immigrants

As the number of illegal immigrants has soared, many have been transported by commercial aircraft, chartered and paid for by the federal government, to holding compounds, such as military bases in other parts of the US. But these transports have been met by angry local citizens complaining about the intrusion of large number of these individuals into their communities.

Another growing concern is that the illegal immigrants represent a public health threat—not an unreasonable possibility given the conditions they are trying to escape. US health professions processing the migrants have already reported a case of H1N1 swine flu, a higher-than-normal spread of drug-resistant TB and dengue fever in South Texas, and the spread of measles and chicken pox.

I urge Winter Texans to follow the story of these migrations and the steps being taken by local, state, and federal governments—but not out of a sense of panic. It’s not called for. When you return to the Valley this fall or winter there may be some precautions you’ll need to follow. And we will keep you updated right here for as long as necessary.

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