El Pasoans have an identity crisis when it comes to immigration and immigrants. Outwardly the local politicians proclaim support for immigrants and decry the lack of immigration reform. El Paso identifies itself as a bastion for Democrats including the idea that immigrants play an important part for the country.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX), in an undated post on her official website (accessed on January 12, 2021) states that she “knows the importance of our immigration,” adding that “Congress must work toward comprehensive immigration reform.” Escobar continues, “cruel policies, such as family separation and metering at ports of entry, are not the answer.”

County Commissioner David Stout (Precinct 2) wrote an opinion piece for the El Paso Times on May 1, 2020. In his editorial, Stout argued that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego had been urging the Department of Homeland Security weekly to “begin the orderly release of all non-violent detainees,” many of “whom are seeking asylum.”

Stout added in his editorial that the local jail has “hundreds of detainees with no criminal history who are locked up during the pendency of civil immigration proceedings.”

Other El Paso politicos have come out in support of asylum seekers and other immigrants.

But it is all duplicitous, a game of smoke and mirrors where the politicos say one thing and act contrary to their public positions.

No Mexicans

El Paso has a history of anti-Mexicanism. It continues today in the form of the continued erasure of the Mexican culture from the El Paso landscape through the attacks on Duranguito. The internet is full of images of a cast iron “no dogs, Negros, Mexicans” sign dated February 20, 1929. It is unclear what the provenance of the cast iron sign is, but its message is clear.

In 1917, then mayor of El Paso Tom Lea (father, not son) sent a telegram to the United States Surgeon General demanding a quarantine be placed in El Paso because “hundreds of dirty lousey [sic] destitute Mexicans arriving at El Paso daily/will undoubtedly bring and spread typhus unless a quarantine is placed at once.”

The delousing of Mexicans at the border by Lea inspired the Nazis to use Zyklon B in the concentration camps.

And who can forget the infamous Glass Beach Study paid for by taxpayer funds?

El Paso has a dark history when it comes to immigrants.

But the immigration question remains centered in El Paso although many politicos pretend it isn’t so.


A U.S. Border Patrol unit known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) made headlines last year when armed men emerged from unmarked vehicles on the streets of Portland wearing tactical gear without official insignia. They went about detaining protestors in July. The federal agents were Border Patrol agents of which many, if not all, were members of the BORTAC team.

Many Democrats decried the use of clandestine agents to make arrests.

BORTAC is not only based out of El Paso, but they were created in El Paso in 1984. BORTAC came to the country’s attention after Cuban refugee Elián González was forcefully removed from a house in Miami and sent back to Cuba in 2000.

Family Separations

The country remains aghast at the family separations that has lost many children and made others orphans. The family separation policy was initiated by the Trump administration as a deterrence to the surge of asylum seekers. About 5,500 children were taken from their parents before the program was halted. Democrats and many El Paso politicos decried the family separations.

The so-called “Zero Tolerance” policy was birthed in El Paso.

During three days in October 2017, five immigrants were arrested in El Paso and charged with a criminal immigration charge. Their children were classified as “unaccompanied minors” and taken away from the parents. This was the birth of the El Paso Pilot Program that led to the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents to deter further immigration.

El Paso Immigration Judges Worst In Nation

Immigration attorneys have labeled the immigration judges in El Paso as the worst in the country. While other immigration judges, like those in New York approved 80% of the asylum cases before them and in Miami, which approved 30%, El Paso only approved 3% during the same period.

The immigration judges based in El Paso have been criticized for their anti-immigrant policies.

The Veronica Escobar Duplicity

Among the El Paso immigration judges is Michael S. Pleters who was criticized for his approval rate for asylum seekers. Pleters only approved 6% of the asylum cases before him.

The Immigration Justice Campaign named Pleters in a complaint on April 3, 2019 for his use of standing orders that “are troubling”.

Pleters is married to Veronica Escobar (D-TX).

County Jails Immigrants For Money

Yesterday, the El Paso County Judge and Commissioners held their regular meeting. One of the agenda items was to approve an intergovernmental agreement between the County and the United States Marshals Service. The proposed contract, postponed on January 4, was to increase the payment the County receives from the Marshals Service from $80 per detainee per day to $110.

According to a news report on KTSM by Aaron Montes, the agenda item was unanimously deleted by the commissioners without discussion. El Paso Politics reached out to Montes via Facebook and asked if the County was still jailing federal prisoners under the existing contract.

Montes replied via a Facebook comment that, yes, the County was jailing federal prisoners. The federal detainees are mostly immigrants jailed at the local jail for about $80 per day, per detainee.

As previously reported by the El Paso Politics, the County’s revenues from the detention of immigrants at the county jail is the third largest source of revenues for the County after property and other taxes.

As readers will observe, David Stout and other politicians will publicly call for action against the abuse of immigrants even to the extent of asking the federal government to release them, yet, they apparently have no interest in ending a lucrative contract for the County that mainly jails non-violent immigrants, many of which are asylum seekers.

Because the agenda item was deleted without public comment, the reasons for the deletion are unknown. However, the County is apparently still being paid to jail immigrants under the existing contract.

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...