Asalia Casares, a Maverick County tax official, poses for a photo in Eagle Pass, TX


By Ted Hesson

EAGLE PASS, Texas (Reuters) – Asalia Casares, 52, is a lifelong Democrat who voted for U.S. President Joe Biden in 2020 just like many in Maverick County near the U.S.-Mexico border, a rare Democratic stronghold in the majority Republican state of Texas.

But Casares said she is concerned about the high levels of illegal immigration straining her hometown of Eagle Pass, Texas, which sits alongside the Rio Grande and where she was born and raised. While she sympathizes with the migrants, she worries about the safety of residents and migrant families, citing the dangers of crossing the Rio Grande and pointing to an incident where three people were found hiding behind an elderly neighbor’s house.

Casares, a Maverick County tax official campaigning for another term, thinks Republican former President Donald Trump would discourage border crossings with his tougher stance. Outside an early voting site on Wednesday she said she would likely vote for him in a head-to-head with Biden in the November presidential election.

“If it’s Biden and Trump, that’s a little bit tough because I am a Democrat, but I don’t like what we’re living. I don’t like what’s happening in our borders,” she said “I would probably say Trump.”

Trump, the likely Republican Party nominee, aims to tap into that frustration during a visit to Eagle Pass on Thursday. He has vowed to intensify his first-term immigration crackdown and resume his signature policies, such as building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and the “remain in Mexico” program, which forced some non-Mexican migrants to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their U.S. asylum cases.

Maverick County, the largely Hispanic county where Eagle Pass is located, has backed Democratic presidential candidates for nearly a century. Biden bested Trump in the county in 2020 despite losing to Trump in Texas.

The Maverick County Republican Party, however, has cited research by political analyst Dave Wasserman showing growing for Trump seen from the 2016 to the 2020 presidential races. The county’s Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden will make his own border visit to Brownsville, Texas, some 320 miles (515 km) southeast along the border on Thursday.

The president has toughened his border position in recent months and blames Republicans for failing to pass legislation that would increase immigration enforcement funding and authority. At the same time, his campaign depicts Trump as trying to block border reforms for his own political gain and as cruel for saying he would seek historical levels of deportations.

But some residents of Eagle Pass have grown frustrated with the situation at the border and the immigration issue could create an opening for Republicans who have sought to make inroads with Latinos in Texas and other states.

‘WE’RE TIRED’

Olga Ramos, another Democrat campaigning for re-election as a Maverick County commissioner, said she doesn’t know yet whether she would choose Biden or Trump in a rematch and that immigration was a core issue for her.

Her district includes ranches and other properties where migrants cross, as well as a Texas National Guard base.

Ramos, 56, said residents complain that migrants go on their porches to charge their phones and open ranch gates and allow animals to escape.

“We’ve been dealing with this for two years. We’re tired,” she said. “I get all the complaints from my constituents, I ask for help, and we don’t get it.”

But whether discontent over the border will sway other Democratic voters in Eagle Pass and the surrounding areas remains unclear.

Jesus “Jesse” Becerra, a 72-year-old Democrat vying for a local constable position, said his preferred candidate is Republican Nikki Haley, who has lost to Trump in all five Republican nominating contests thus far. But in a Biden-Trump rematch, he would pick Biden.

Becerra said Biden has pushed for legislation that would address border issues, but that Republicans blocked it after Trump came out in opposition.

“They don’t want to reach a compromise,” he said.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Eagle Pass, Texas; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Aurora Ellis)



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