Laredo, Del Rio mayors react to Gov. Abbott’s disaster declaration for border counties

Both community leaders say they believe local partners need more resources from the federal government.

SAN ANTONIO – Laredo and Del Rio are about 180 miles apart, and so are their mayors to some degree in their reaction to Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration for border counties.

Abbott said he issued the disaster declaration on Tuesday in response to the border crisis created by the recent surge in immigrants.

“For us it’s not a disaster because it’s manageable, still manageable,” said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, who attributes the manageability to a strong local, state and federal law enforcement presence.

But, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said the disaster began during February’s winter storm when the city struggled to meet the needs of its community and the arrivals at the border.

“The unsustainable system that was running its course has reached its breaking point,” Lozano said.

However, both mayors said they worry that ending Migrant Protection Protocols or the stay-in-Mexico policy, coupled with the expected lifting of Title 42 during the pandemic could make matters worse.

Saenz said additional funding is urgently needed to prepare for what may still be ahead.

“It could become something extremely serious for us, maybe to the point of a disaster,” Saenz said. “I hope not.”

Having served in the U.S. Air Force providing security for military installations, Lozano said, “I recognize the national security disaster that’s happening here along the border.”

Yet both said each of their communities are still safe overall.

Bipartisan reaction to the disaster declaration came from Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of San Antonio and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo.

“Some people call it a crisis. Some people call it a disaster. The fact of the matter is our local border communities are overwhelmed,” Cornyn said.

In a statement, Cuellar said, “I cannot in good conscience agree with the governor’s decision - this is not a disaster.”

Cuellar said border communities are dealing with “a complex humanitarian crisis.”

Cuellar, Cornyn and both mayors agreed border communities welcome additional funding that could come from the disaster declaration and the federal government.

You can read Abbott’s disaster declaration below:

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.