Mission residents address mayor’s controversial border wall comments

MISSION — Residents gathered into city hall Monday to address Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas’ controversial remarks seemingly supporting of a border wall.

Salinas was quoted last month in the Washington Post stating, “The best thing that could happen to us is that we go ahead and build the fence and see if we can stop some of the illegals from coming across.”

The organization, La Union del Pueblo Entero, started a petition in an effort to sway Salinas to take back his comments and has received 302 signatures, according to John-Michael Torres, a Mission resident who works for LUPE.

Torres addressed the mayor during a city council meeting on Monday, delivering the petition as well as a letter, urging Salinas to reconsider his stance on the border wall, signed by LUPE and other organizations such as the Texas Civil Rights Project, Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club and the Minority Affairs Council at UTRGV.

“We see our city as a welcoming city that wants to see our city progress and grow,” Torres said during the meeting. “I think that one of the things that really took a lot of us aback was the idea that Mission would use such a public forum, and such a national forum to use fear-mongering comments essentially that I think mischaracterize us as a city.”

However, during a phone interview before the meeting, Salinas reiterated his residents lived in fear and said he would not be retracting his comments.

“I have folks that live along the banks of the river…they’re afraid because they don’t know these people,” he said. “I’m not going to change my mind about what I said.”

Salinas had plenty people backing his comments in members of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System, a local watchdog group, who also addressed the council during the meeting.

“Aliens that cross our border without permission do not share our values of rule of law,” said Jim Barnes, a combat veteran and OWLS member. “A border wall, physical or virtual, is essential to maintaining a country free of everyone who does not share our values and they wish to do us harm.”

Salinas, during the phone interview, said he understood that the people crossing the border were good people searching for a better life but said his residents were scared.

“I have some people in Granjeno that are very much for the wall,” he said. “I’m not going to pay for the wall and I’m not going to build it; I just hope that when they build it, it’s going to help my folks there.”