Big Bend Rep. Eddie Morales calls for temporary suspension of asylum 

Last week, State Rep. Eddie Morales posted a clip from a press conference on his Facebook page calling for a temporary suspension of asylum

Photo from State Representative Eddie Morales Jr.’s Facebook page.

EAGLE PASS –– Last Tuesday, Texas House District 74 — which includes the Big Bend and a large chunk of the Texas-Mexico border — state Rep. Eddie Morales posted a clip from a press conference on his Facebook page calling for a temporary suspension of asylum, which he believed would be “a humanitarian act to protect migrants.” He wanted to see the process suspended until an acceptable border security bill passed through Congress. 

Morales’ comments came in the wake of a tragedy that struck Eagle Pass on January 12: a migrant mother and her two children drowned attempting to cross the river near Shelby Park. Customs and Border Protection officials were alerted to two other migrants in distress on the same cold evening; they were prevented from reaching the migrants by a blockade of Texas National Guard members at the park’s boat ramp maintained by the state of Texas. 

Shelby Park — a 47-acre property owned by the city of Eagle Pass on the banks of the Rio Grande — has transformed from a tranquil place for weekend ball games and picnics into the nexus of a power struggle between the state and federal governments. Since 2021, funding from Operation Lone Star has gradually trickled down into the park, turning it into a base camp for Texas Department of Public Safety operations. 

As the Texas Tribune reported on Monday, no one is allowed to enter Shelby Park without permission, and federal law enforcement is strictly prohibited from entering –– all under the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott. 

In his comments, Morales made it clear that he had criticisms of both the state and federal government’s response to the incident and said that he was disappointed in the general discourse around the “migrant surge.” He said that the hysteria was blocking politicians from trying to reach common-sense solutions — and could potentially harm his hometown of Eagle Pass. “They would rather use this community as a prop for their political theater at a time when Americans are expecting their elected officials to get to work and fix the issue,” he said. 

The right to asylum is protected by the federal Refugee Act of 1980, and promises that non-U.S. citizens on U.S. soil who fear returning to their country due to “likely loss of life or freedom for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political belief, or membership in a particular social group” will not be forced to return to their countries of origin. 

In recent years, Republican politicians have tried to curtail the asylum process under fear that there are simply too many migrants trying to come to the United States. Abbott lashed out by putting asylum seekers on buses and shipping them to “sanctuary cities” in other parts of the country who have voiced political support for migrants. 

As a Democrat, some worry that Morales is breaking with the rest of his party on his approach to immigration. Morales instead insists that politicians from other parts of the country simply don’t understand the reality of life on the border. “And at the end of the day, I am the voice of everyone in House District 74,” Morales said in an interview that aired on Dallas’ Fox 4 in October. “As such, sometimes it’s imperative that we call out our own whenever we think that they’re not doing enough. This is one of those issues.”

Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights — which has a satellite office in Presidio — feared that Morales’ approach was the opposite of a “humanitarian” solution and would do little to dissuade migrants from coming to Eagle Pass. “Under the current asylum restrictions, asylum seekers are being forced to take isolated, dangerous, and remote routes to reach the U.S. and submit their claims,” he said. “Our nation would see a barbaric increase to the already alarming numbers of deaths at the southern border.”

Garcia called for a “legal, safe and dignified” asylum process and funding for border-related projects to be funneled into “welcoming infrastructure” instead. “A real, humane and effective solution to address the overwhelming number of migrant deaths at the border begins with the application of asylum law as intended,” he said.