Presidio city adopts anti-transmigrante resolution

PRESIDIO — At a city council meeting in Presidio last Wednesday, the council unanimously passed a non-binding resolution expressing its opposition to having a transmigrante route through the border city.

While the Mexican government still has released almost no new information on the proposed transmigrante route through Presidio, Mexican officials estimated before the ongoing coronavirus crisis that such a route could open as early as March or April.

In Presidio, residents and city officials have spent months debating transmigrantes and  — perhaps more controversially — the logistics for managing them, including a citywide parking ordinance and a proposed municipal parking lot to accommodate transmigrantes.

The debate has put Presidio “on a real roller coaster ride,” Mayor John Ferguson, who introduced the anti-transmigrante resolution, said at the meeting last Wednesday.

He stressed that passing such a resolution “doesn’t mean we’re stopping it.” But he said the resolution was an effort to inform everyone — from the general public to federal officials in the United States and Mexico — that Presidio city leaders “oppose having transmigrante traffic cross our international bridge into Mexico.”

The resolution touches on a range of concerns that Presidio officials have brought up over the past few months. There is a “absence of federal processing” or “overnight accomodations” for the traffic, the resolution states. It notes that work on the international bridge expansion at the Presidio-Ojinaga Port of Entry “has been delayed and is presently unfinished” and that U.S. Highway 67 is not designed for the increased traffic and could see an “elevated risk for accidents on the mainly two lane, curvy and hilly roadway.”

The resolution encourages Marfa and Presidio County to make similar resolutions and invites the U.S. federal government to take note of the local opposition to the proposed transmigrante route.

“Do with it what you like,” Mayor Ferguson told council members. “But this is how I feel, and I’m ready to go official on it and see if we can maybe get other entities to join us.”

After Ferguson finished reading the resolution, he opened the floor to questions. One council member asked whether Presidio County and Marfa felt the same way.

Yes, replied Rod Ponton, city attorney for Presidio and county attorney for Presidio County. “Marfa has big concerns also,” he said. And Presidio County “wants to go on the record to officials in Washington that they’re against it.”

Antonio Manriquez, a council member, asked whether federal officials (including those at the international port) could join in the resolution. “I don’t believe DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] would allow them to do that,” City Administrator Joe Portillo said. Mayor Ferguson nonetheless stressed that the resolution “might have some sway” with federal officials.

“I know we haven’t had much luck reaching out to them in the past,” Portillo conceded of the federal officials. “When we’ve told them, ‘These are our concerns, and this is what we’re worried about,’ we haven’t heard back from them.”

In the end, the resolution passed unanimously, 4-0. Alcee Tavarez, mayor pro tem, moved to accept the measure. Councilmember Rogelio Zubia seconded.

Ferguson thanked the council for doing “the right thing.”

“We’ll be able to look back at this action, and it will have been the right thing to have done,” he said.