‘Close the Border’ message unwelcome in El Paso, TX
A convoy of anti-illegal immigration demonstrators was pulled over by El Paso police after receiving a call alleging that one of its members had threatened a pro-immigration activist who was following the convoy through the city on Sunday, officials said.
Police stopped the convoy of about 10 vehicles on Interstate 10 East between Lomaland Drive and Lee Trevino Drive early Sunday evening, backing up traffic to McRae Boulevard.
Police spokesman Det. Mike Baranyay said police received a call alleging a gun threat at about 5 p.m. Sunday, but that there were some inconsistencies in the allegation.
No one was arrested and police let the convoy continue on its tour of the border.
Baranyay said members of the convoy alleged that a pro-immigration activist tried to run them off the road.
Both allegations are still under investigation, Baranyay said.
Pro-immigration activist Miguel Juarez said he had spotted the convoy traveling through El Paso and followed it. He said he wanted to see if an anti-illegal immigration rally that was said to have been cancelled would still be held.
Juarez said the convoy was traveling near Western Refining on Trowbridge Drive about two miles south of I-10 when one of the cars pulled over. He alleges someone from the Border Convoy got out of the car, pointed a rifle at him and asked if he was following the convoy.
Members of the Border Convoy denied the allegation, saying they were the ones who felt threatened.
Convoy organizer Eric Odom told the El Paso Times that a pro-immigration activist driving a pickup truck had followed them through the city trying to force them to pull over.
The Border Convoy has been streaming video of its nine-day tour from Murrieta, Calif., to McAllen, Texas, on its website. The convoy began its tour Friday, and it is scheduled to end Aug. 9.
“We have the entire thing on video … That never happened,” Odom told the El Paso Times about the alleged gun threat.
When asked if anyone in the convoy was carrying weapons, Odom said that they had a legal right to carry weapons for protection.
“But as you can see, there’s soccer moms with American flags (in the convoy). That’s why they are going to let us go,” Odom said.
Identifying itself on its website as a coalition of citizens concerned over the “invasion” at the border, the convoy had cancelled two El Paso stops because of alleged threats it received on Facebook, Odom said.
Earlier Sunday, the Border Network for Human Rights staged rallies on three I-10 overpasses near Downtown El Paso hoping to catch the convoy as it passed through the city.
“El Paso is the safest city in the nation,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights. “It’s a welcoming city … No racism, no xenophobia. That message is not welcomed.”
Unaware of where the Border Convoy might hold its rally, community activists were eager to intercept the convoy with their own message.
“They have the right to express themselves. I think Border Network is very respectful of that,” Garcia said. “But what we are saying is that they are bringing a message of discrimination, a message that is anti-children, anti-immigrant and at the end of the day, racists. So I think we are going to express ourselves saying they are not welcomed in El Paso.”
Pro-immigration organizers held banners and American flags. Children, parents and others carried signs that read: “Anti-Children-Anti-American” and “Border Communities are American Communities.”
Their message is in support of the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally since October. Many are believed to be fleeing Central American countries that are plagued with violence and poverty.
“This country was founded by immigrants and we want these children to have a legal process,” said activist Gabriel Flores in Spanish. “They (Border Convoy) want to deport these children so they can go back and die,” Flores said, referring to the violence happening in Central America.
Susana Herrera, who has lived in El Paso for 15 years, said she believed the convoy’s message goes against the country’s values.
“We are not in favor of deporting children,” Herrera said in Spanish. “This country does not represent that. It represents security and freedom.”
On its tour, the Border Convoy is urging people to “Secure the Border,” “Stop the Invasion,” and “Stand for America.”
Odom said having to cancel their scheduled stop in El Paso proves their fears.
“It tells us the situation at our southern borders is as bad as we suspected,” Odom said via text message. “The fact that our lives are in danger for simply wanting to protest confirms we truly are in trouble as a nation.”