With all the political grandstanding from El Paso’s politicians, it is a wonder that El Paso is not a sanctuary city. El Paso, one of the last Democrat Party strongholds in the state and a city fully dependent on Mexican commerce and Pesos, has never been a sanctuary city, and, worse it is not immigrant friendly. What? Why?

It is rather simple; El Paso is so economically dependent on federal dollars that it cannot afford to do anything to jeopardize the money coming in from the federal government. That is the dirty little secret that Veronica Escobar and cohorts do not want you to realize.

Yet the notion remains that El Paso may not officially be labelled a sanctuary city but it is a defacto sanctuary city. Yet, it is a lie. As an immigrant, I felt much more unwelcomed in El Paso than in Austin, Chicago and Orlando. This is because there exists an undercurrent animosity against Mexican citizens that most do not realize it, ignore it or welcome it.

Many believe the lie that El Paso is friendly and supportive to immigrants because of its population mix, 80% plus Hispanic and because it is on the border. It is a lie that is carefully crafted by politicos, such as Veronica Escobar.

Yet the proof of the lie is readily available.

Around 2004 I had the opportunity to provide my input to city officials about the ongoing problem of Mexican shoppers leaving discarded packaging materials in shopping center parking lots. The City was looking for a solution to the problem. I do not believe in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures and I believe that most problems have an easy solution, but one must first understand the cause of the problem to design a solution.

I explained the reason for the problem had to do with taxes. The taxes that Mexican shoppers had to pay for the products they purchase in the El Paso malls. The issue, at the time, was that Aduana, or Mexican customs, would impose a duty on clothing or products that were brought back into México. However, personal goods, such as clothing and personal electronics, such as computers, did not incur an import fee if it was part of the person’s personal gear or clothing.

In other words, if the computer was not in packing materials then the person could argue that it was their personal device. Likewise, clothing in suitcases without labels was for personal use. At about the same time to stimulate the border economies, the Mexican government allowed appliances to be brought in with minimal or little taxes if it was not new. As a result, Mexican shoppers would discard the packaging materials for the products that they purchased in El Paso to reduce their tax liability in México.

The problem was that the Mexican shoppers were day shoppers and as such were not staying in hotels. So, they had no place to discard their packaging materials. As a result, they would remove the packaging materials in the parking lots and attempt to discard them in the large trash bins behind the stores.

But, the local mall security guards and the local El Paso police officers would threaten them with arrest for using the trash bins for their trash. Stores pay by weight to have the trash emptied out and thus they discourage anyone from using them for their personal items. As more and more people were threatened with arrest for using the trash bins behind stores, they started to leave their packaging materials in the parking lots. You might ask yourselves why the store security officers didn’t stop them from discarding them in the parking lots if they threatened them with arrest for using the trash bins.

Because like everything in El Paso, it is all smoke-and-mirrors. Everyone understood what the problem was but instead of working for a solution, it was simpler to blame the Mexican shoppers. Therefore, the mall security was discouraged from bothering shoppers in the parking lots while enforcing the no personal trash rule in the bins.

The solution I offered was simple. I suggested that the City should require the malls, like Cielo Vista Mall, provide trash receptacles for customers to use in the parking lots. The malls, after all, were benefiting from the Mexican shoppers. That is as far as I got. The matter was dropped and the trash continued to pile in the parking lots.

In another example, last year, there was the ongoing controversy over the municipal identification cards. The proponents wanted, either the City or the County to use taxpayer monies to create municipal identification cards.

Like all smoke-and-mirrors in El Paso politics, the municipal identification cards were intended to help the undocumented immigrants, but it was wrapped around the false notion that there were citizens in El Paso that could not get identifications, either because of incarceration, age or a myriad of other excuses. They were excuses because it was really a political ploy that didn’t even help the undocumented immigrant population.

During the debates, I offered a simple solution that had no cost to the taxpayers. Both the City and County could simply issue a directive to their dependent departments to accept the Mexican Matricula Consular card as a valid form of identification. Both the Federal and State governments already recognized the Matricula as valid identification. As a matter of fact, the State of Texas was forced to accept it as valid identification for retrieving state records. The best part is that the cost of the Matricula was paid for by the bearer of the card or by the Mexican government. The solution was simply to issue an order – a piece of paper and some time to debate the issue – and in the end, it would solve part of the problem without any cost to the taxpayers.

But my suggestion went nowhere because it was never about helping the undocumented in El Paso, or anyone else. It was nothing more than grandstanding, furthering the illusion of responsive politicos and political power plays.

Yesterday we looked at the County preparing to file a lawsuit against the State of Texas over the so-called sanctuary cities legislation. But like the trash issue at the malls or the municipal identification cards, it is not about supporting immigrants, legal and undocumented, but rather about public policy used to create an illusion of politicos caring about their communities.

It is all a lie.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “The Reason Why El Paso Is Not a Sanctuary City”

  1. great job ! One other point, if malls provide trash bins for use by Mexican shoppers, isn’t that helping them circumvent Mexican law ?

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