Visiting the Rio Grande Valley amid President Trump’s first visit

The Rio Grande Valley is a community of communities, located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and bursting with life. The residents here are primarily Hispanic, Democratic and RGV born-and-bred. Ahead of President Trump’s first visit to the area since he took office, and amid his continued push for $5.7 billion border wall fortifications and an ongoing federal government shutdown, I visited the area to get to know it and its population.

Here, just a few miles north of the border, immigration of the legal and illegal variety is a way of life. Stores rely on Mexicans crossing the McAllen Hidalgo International Bridge for business, you’ll see as many signs in Spanish as in English and the residents of Hidalgo are just a few minutes’ walk from the border itself.

Amid the Trump administration’s calling the situation along the border a “crisis,” most of the people who live here say there is none. Others on the opposite side of the political spectrum insist there is a crisis, and it’s been ongoing for years.

On Thursday, January 10, as President Donald Trump was flying toward the McAllen International Airport, protesters and supporters alike began to line the blocks just across the street where he would land. Hidalgo County is deeply blue, but the dueling rallies proved there is still a strong contingent of Republicans here.

What began as a pair of groups attempting to out-chant each other on the same block soon took over all four corners of the nearby intersection where the airport is located.

Later, as news that Trump landed and was at a roundtable at a nearby Border Patrol station, the crowd began to migrate there.

Later, back at the airport a few hours after he landed, the president prepared to depart once again. Across the street in the parking lot of the La Plaza Mall, supporters waited eagerly to get a last look.

The next day, before returning to San Antonio, I headed to Hidalgo. While McAllen is indeed a border community, the much smaller city of Hidalgo is the doormat to the United States, where houses sit one to two miles away from the border. Bollards and fencing run alongside some of this community’s busiest roads.

For the most part, the people here say they feel completely safe. To them, it’s just like living anywhere else.

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