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El Salvador opens McAllen consulate

by Karen Antonocci

There is now a Salvadoran consulate four blocks north of the bus station where the federal government has been releasing immigrants from there and other Central American nations in response to the surge of new arrivals this year.

Salvadoran leaders and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling symbolically cut a blue and white ribbon to signify the opening of the consulate Friday morning as news crews crammed into the small second floor space at 301 N. Main St. recorded the event.

“Dear friends, this is a chance to reinforce the work of the consulates today,” Liduvina Magarín, El Salvador’s vice minister for citizens living abroad, said in Spanish. “Principally the mission is the protection of human rights.”

The consulate will help locate Salvadorans’ family members in the United States or El Salvador as well as assisting with passports and visas. It is El Salvador’s 17th consulate in the United States and the third in Texas; the next closest consulate is in Houston.

The Salvadoran consulate is the fourth to open in McAllen. In May, the Honduran government opened a consular office that does not process passports. Mexico and Guatemala both have consulates here, as well.

Darling said the Salvadoran consulate will join the others on South Broadway at some point in the future, making for a “consulate row.”

Sandra Agreda will serve as the local Salvadoran consul, or the chief officer. She said although there is no furniture or telephone in the office yet, two staffers will be at the McAllen consulate soon to answer concerns. For now, the consulate can be reached at 1-888-301-1130, a phone number staffed 24 hours a day in El Salvador.

U.S., Mexican legislators meet in McAllen to talk immigrant crisis

by Lorenzo Zazueta

U.S. and Mexican legislators alongside U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa on Friday toured holding facilities that serve the unaccompanied minors who have been coming into the Rio Grande Valley.

U.S. Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif., Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Dina Titus, D-Nev., Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., Mike Honda, D-Calif., and several members of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies — that country’s equivalent of the House of Representatives — met Friday to discuss how they could work together between governmental bodies to solve the issue of unaccompanied minors.

Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said since July the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the Valley has decreased by 50 percent.

The number of unaccompanied minors in the Southwest Border has gone from more than 10,628 in June to 5,508 in July and the trend is expected to continue in August according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.

Hinojosa said he believes the reason the amount of unaccompanied minors making the journey has decreased has to do with cooperation with officials in Central America. At the same time, Mexico has stepped up enforcement along common immigrant smuggling routes, including on the freight train known as La Bestia — the beast — frequented by many Central Americans passing through.

Hinojosa said the presidents of these Central American countries met with President Obama and were advised to communicate the correct information to their citizens.

“The presidents of each of the sending countries are giving the message to their people that they have been misinformed by smuggling organizations about being welcome in the United States and by clarifying that information a lot of families have stopped coming,” he said. “It’s been very effective.”

Hinojosa added that even though the numbers are decreasing it is important that Congress address comprehensive immigration reform as a way to solve broad immigration issues.

Takano said that by addressing the underlying issues in Central America with the Mexican government, U.S. officials they can find a long-term solution to immigration influx into the U.S. and Mexico.

But a solution may not come anytime soon.

The U.S. Congress reconvenes Sept. 8, but Hinojosa said he doesn’t believe any substantial immigration bill will pass in the two weeks that legislators are set to be at work.

President Barack Obama said in June that he would announce executive actions he’d take to help the immigration crisis without Congress. But on Thursday, he backed off that notion, saying he’d wait until after the November elections.

“Boehner is not going to allow immigration legislation to come before the House during the period between now and the elections and probably not allow it during the lame duck session,” he said. “Consequently it’s up to the president to use his presidential powers and authority to give us some relief.”