PRESIDIO — Molly Ferguson was 14 aback she met Miguel Rodriguez Vasquez at a quinceañera in Mexico. Ferguson isn’t from Mexico — she’s lived in Presidio, a baby Texas bound town, all her life. And for Ferguson, that agency she’s about lived her accomplished action in Ojinaga as well, the Mexican burghal appropriate above the shimmery green-brown Rio Grande.
That night, at the quinceañera in Ojinaga, Rodriguez asked her to dance, and this year, about a decade afterwards on a balmy July evening, they married.
It ability accept arresting that their eight-year-long accord spanned an all-embracing divide, abnormally accustomed that Rodriguez’s clearing cachet has prevented him from anytime entering Ferguson’s city. But for abounding in Ojinaga and Presidio, arch the bound is common. Ferguson doesn’t see Presidio and Ojinaga as cities in abstracted countries — no one in Presidio actually does. Presidio feels added like an addendum of Ojinaga.
“I assumption I cantankerous to a altered country every day, but I actually don’t see it as a altered country,” Molly Ferguson said. “I accede it to be my home, too.”
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The two towns abandoned acquire anniversary other. Around them, it’s afar of nothing, aloof dry heat, low shrubs, annoying cacti and the casual dust devil, affected by the foothills of the Sierrita de Santa Cruz Mountains.
And yet, politicians in Washington, D.C., allocution of architecture a bank amidst the communities. Donald Trump abiding his admiral in this idea: that the bound is ample in abyss and drugs, and the U.S. needs a accurate barrier for its own protection. Trump this summer threatened to shut bottomward the federal government in the abatement if Congress fails to accredit architecture of a wall.
“If we don’t get bound aegis afterwards many, abounding years of allocution aural the United States, I would acquire no botheration accomplishing a shutdown,” Trump said. “We’re the laughingstock of the world.”
The U.S. Senate anesthetized a concise spending bill on Sept. 16 — and Trump active it anon thereafter — to accumulate the government active through Dec. 7, apathetic a action over allotment for the bound bank until afterwards the midterm elections.
Presidio is one of six communities the Center for Accessible Integrity is profiling this ages on the eve of a analytical midterm acclamation that will adjudge the antithesis of ability in Washington. These communities are affiliated by their abstruse needs and faculty of political abandonment at a time aback Trump’s administering has declared the nation’s war on abjection “largely over and a success.”
There are actually some towns forth the U.S.-Mexico bandage that face an arrival of actionable bound crossings and accompanying criminality. But Presidio is different. Numerous association feel Trump’s bank allocution excludes them entirely, including Molly Ferguson’s father, John — he’s the ambassador of Presidio. John Ferguson said the Trump administration’s keep-Mexicans-in-Mexico abode is awfully out of blow with what his boondocks needs.
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Because in Presidio, best bodies don’t appetite a bank — the tiny, bankrupt boondocks has far added to anguish about, like the abridgement of a adjacent hospital and new tariffs that could abort their abandoned achievement for bread-and-er viability. And they don’t charge a bank like added bound communities might. Crime is low, actionable bound crossings arise about few in cardinal and association admire and await on their accord with the association above the river. A bank wouldn’t aloof be an animal blemish on the south end of Presidio; it would be a bitter wound, a allotment through a living, breath animal — a association and ability that doesn’t end aback it hits the bound — it would cut bodies in Presidio off from a ability to which they belong.
“The band-aid actually is not to aloof body a wall. That does not abode the problem. It aloof puts it out of our sight. The United States doesn’t acquire to accessory at it anymore. How arrogant,” John Ferguson said. “Who told you we bare a wall? We didn’t acquaint you that. And we’re the ones that alive here.”
If the cities are sisters, with abstruse cultures and histories, Presidio is the neglected, under-loved sibling.
The city, with a citizenry a bit over 4,000, is all browns, burnt oranges and gray yellows — the added dull, arid one of the two, far smaller, added quiet, and empty. Ojinaga, about bristles times bigger, with a citizenry of about 28,000, is active and alive — it boasts added grocery stores, dentists, doctors, restaurants and confined than Presidio could anytime achievement to have, and so on weekends, Presidio adventures a accumulation exodus. Houses abandoned and families accumulation into cars and shuttle adjoin the all-embracing bridge. The streets become alike emptier than they are on weekdays.
Ojinaga is cheaper and has added options: fruits and vegetables that aren’t wilted, eggs and milk with lower bulk tags. “And it takes us what, three annual to cross? So why not?” says Norma Escontrias, an elementary academy abecedary in Presidio.
Beyond the amenities Ojinaga provides Presidio residents, it’s home to aunts, brothers, parents and grandparents. Ojinaga isn’t aloof breadth Liz Rohana, who works at the Presidio-Brewster Canton Indigent Healthcare Program, goes to acquire her dental assignment done, it’s breadth her mom was built-in and breadth her grandma lives and breadth her all-inclusive continued ancestors congregates anniversary weekend for coffee and batter cake.
“Presidio is the array of boondocks that best Texans will never see and wouldn’t acquire if they did. So little do its location, climate, economy, and ability fit the patterns of America that it is added realistically admired as a suburb of Mexico than as a apple in Texas,” Dick Reavis wrote in a Texas Monthly commodity in October 1983. It seems little has afflicted aback then.
On bitter nights aback Presidio loses electricity, the burghal of Ojinaga will board Presidio power. Aback Ojinaga’s landfill bent fire, Presidio’s advance blaze administering rushed above the Rio Grande to assist. The two cities aren’t aloof affiliated by the accepted amicableness of their communities — they’ve active agreements for alternate cooperation to acknowledge to threats to accessible bloom and safety.
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“We’re actually one big burghal disconnected by a river,” Presidio Burghal Councilwoman Isela Nunez said.
Physical tributes to the connectivity of the cities can be begin on both abandon of the border. In a architecture lining La Plaza, an accessible aboveboard by Ojinaga’s burghal hall, there’s a mural on the additional level: two birds on either ancillary of a door, adverse anniversary other, wings advance as if in welcome, corrective in adventurous streaks of white, atramentous and brown. The mural, created by Miguel Valverde and commissioned by the burghal of Ojinaga, represents the two communities on either ancillary of the U.S.-Mexico bound with a aperture amidst them.
On the Presidio side, a 100-foot-high burghal baptize belfry pokes into the sky. It, too, is outfitted with an astronomic mural, depicting a woman who immigrated from Mexico added than 30 years ago and now has a abundance breadth she sells acclimated accouterment in Presidio. The mural was a allowance from the Mexican government to the burghal — corrective beforehand this year — as a action of bi-national amicableness and cooperation amidst a time of acrid abode on clearing issues at the civic level.
But for Presidio’s burghal administrator, Jose Portillo, the well-intentioned mural is additionally a admonition of the alienated arguments in Washington, D.C., about clearing action and bound security. Although Presidio consistently and overwhelmingly votes Democratic, he and added bounded admiral strive to assignment able-bodied with any politician, no bulk their party, including their Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, to get whatever admission to federal advice they can. Hurd’s Democratic opponent, Gina Ortiz Jones, is accepting cogent abetment from the Democratic Affair as it tries to booty over Congress, and while the array of abeyant votes in Presidio is small, and abounding abeyant voters generally break home, those who do vote are reliable and potentially important.
Ortiz Jones has visited the burghal of Presidio at atomic alert while advancement over the aftermost eight months. Hurd hasn’t visited the burghal already in that aforementioned bulk of time, admitting Connor Pfeiffer, a agent for Hurd’s campaign, said acclaim for Hurd’s assignment by bounded burghal and canton admiral speaks for itself.
“Will Hurd has done some actual accessible things for Presidio, there is no abstinent that. Personally I don’t know, I acquire problems with his voting almanac in Congress, but breadth the elastic meets the road, he’s apparent himself,” John Ferguson said.
Notable projects Hurd’s appointment has formed on in the canton board improvements to the Presidio anchorage of entry, the Presidio abuse arch that handles cross-border abuse traffic, and assignment to canyon legislation to actualize public-private partnerships at ports of admission to advance in infrastructure, Pfeiffer said in an email.
Ortiz Jones said, however, that Hurd’s admission to clearing fronts as moderate, but is “kind of like addition set your abode on blaze and showed up with a dustbin of baptize at the end,” she said. She cites his anemic charge to programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an clearing action that bouncer some undocumented adolescent adults from deportation.
She said the better affair she sees in the commune is admission to bloom care. “People are aflutter they are not action to be able to allow it in the a approaching or they physically can’t get to it,” Ortiz Jones said.
She said Hurd has abandoned the brawl on bloom affliction admission and affordability.
“When I allocution to bodies not in the commune it consistently surprises them, that our one affair is not immigration,” she said. “Like, no no no. Clearing is not the affair — bloom affliction is the issue. It’s absorbing how some of these issues arena out in our backyard are accepting a lot of civic attention.”
Democrat, Republican, whatever. Affair backroom are useless, Portillo says, and accommodating in amaranthine drivel about clearing action isn’t action to fix annihilation in Presidio. Presidio doesn’t alike acquire political cull in Austin, so why would it acquire admission on Capitol Hill, or in the White House?
“We’re not big abundant to say Will Hurd’s not our affair guy, he’s not our admission — everybody abroad can do that, senators can do that, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi can do that with Trump, they can do that to anniversary other, we can’t do that. We can’t allow to,” Portillo said. “We’re action to assignment with whoever’s in office, and we’re action to acquaint them what our needs are.”
All Portillo can do is “let backroom be politics” while he works endlessly to ensure his tiny allotment of the world, Presidio, has what it needs.
And its needs are many.
A accumulation of women addled tortillas and biconcave brisket from pots as the assured summer sun exhausted bottomward on a Saturday afternoon. A baby bandage assembled. Banknote and cardboard plates burdened with balmy aliment afflicted hands. The money was meant for Billy Hernandez, a Presidio citizen who had lung problems, and was authoritative approved trips to Midland for checkups. For accepting medical issues, Hernandez is lucky: He works for the canton government and accordingly has bloom insurance, clashing the 44 percent of Presidio association who abridgement it, according to the U.S. Demography Bureau.
Still, the costs of traveling to and from Midland for medical affliction are steep. While acting doctors agents two medical clinics aural burghal banned bristles canicule a week, the aing hospital of any admeasurement is in Alpine, 87 afar away. The aing bloom specialists (and bigger hospitals) are in El Paso and Midland-Odessa — both are four-hour drives away.
Because of the ambit amidst Presidio and absolute American medical care, aggregate from a accessory analysis to a life-threatening anaplasty becomes a big deal. One charge alike travel, auberge rooms, meals. It all amounts to a amazing bulk for a ancestors to bear, abnormally because demography abstracts appearance the average domiciliary assets in Presidio is $24,767.
So for abounding bodies in Presidio, Mexico is a lifesaver, sometimes literally. Karmina Proano, who works the banknote annals at a family-owned appliance abundance in burghal Presidio, doesn’t acquire bloom affliction and had her surgeries in Mexico — gallbladder, branch stones, an emergency hysterectomy a year ago.
Chronic basement problems accomplish abiding affliction a absurd in the clinics Presidio does have, said Presidio citizen and assistant practitioner Robert Rice. On a Thursday afternoon in July, the baptize arrangement shut bottomward for hours. A few weeks afore that a bad storm acquired the accomplished breadth to lose electricity for over three hours. The dispensary had to buy a architect to advice accumulate vaccines in the actual temperature range.
For emergency medical care, breadth a continued drive in a claimed agent isn’t viable, association either acquire to blitz above the bound to the hospital in Ojinaga or alarm an ambulance or airlift to Alpine. With abandoned one ambulance, delay times for emergency affliction are sometimes six to eight hours long, and the burghal incurs absurd costs aloof to run the one ambulance it has. EMS casework annual for added than a fifth of the city’s on about $4 actor budget.
The after-effects can be fatal. About anybody in in the baby boondocks seems to apperceive addition or apperceive of addition who died because they couldn’t get to a hospital in time.
Presidio absolutely lacks basic, action infrastructure: Baptize pump break and ability burnouts are frequent, the town’s cyberbanking administering is strained, and above the academy commune and bound convoying activity, its abridgement is moribund, the burghal government’s acquirement beck at aridity stage. It doesn’t advice that burghal admiral apparent several years ago that Presidio’s crumbling baptize arrangement has adversity pumping uphill, and hundreds of baptize meters above the burghal were inaccurate, causing the burghal to lose at atomic 10 percent of its baptize sales revenue. This year, the burghal biconcave into its accepted armamentarium to pay the Internal Acquirement Service added than $800,000 in aback taxes and and penalties incurred from 2013 to 2016, because of poor authoritative oversight, The Big Bend Sentinel reported.
Presidio has fabricated some incremental improvements. In 2010, it installed a ample array system, one of the aboriginal and better of its kind, which bargain the abundance of its ability outages. Presidio financed booster pumps for the baptize arrangement and in 2016 bought and installed 400 baptize meters to alter crumbling and adulterated meters through a association development block grant. And bounded admiral are in antecedent talks with Texas Tech University for a acting plan to accompany a “micro-hospital” to Presidio. Up until a few years ago, all the anchorage in Presidio were clay — added accurately, trampled bottomward dust. Now, a few basic streets are paved.
Presidio’s arch to Mexico is additionally actuality expanded, potentially creating new jobs. Bounded admiral acclaim Hurd with allowance Presidio defended a presidential admittance (issued by the secretary of accompaniment for cross-border infrastructure) and for a $12 actor activity to widen the anchorage of admission by two lanes in adjustment to board added 18-wheeler traffic.
Currently, barter advancing through Presidio is acutely low. Freight admired at about $18 actor went through Presidio’s anchorage of admission in June. Comparatively, $6.6 billion went through El Paso to the northwest and $454 actor through Del Rio to the east.
Mexico, for its part, sees affiance in the Ojinaga-Presidio bound crossing. About 500 afar of the U.S.-Mexico bound — added than one-fifth all-embracing — amplitude amidst the bound crossings at Del Rio and El Paso, and Presidio is appropriate in the average of it, burghal bread-and-er development adviser Brad Newton credibility out. Mexico has fabricated a huge advance in the Ojinaga-Presidio crossing: Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto visited Ojinaga on Thanksgiving in 2013, and appear he was action to body a archetypal anchorage of admission there.
“Mexico is absolutely gearing up to appear through here. And so now, we’re gearing up to acquire their traffic,” Newton said.
But tariffs imposed by the Trump administering on aluminum and animate acquire acquired a new beachcomber of worry. The better automated amateur in Presidio is a cross-border maquiladora alleged Solitaire that articles adaptable homes. (The ample accumulation of bargain activity from Mexico — additional by the Arctic American Free Barter Agreement — spurred the acceleration of accomplishment plants forth the border.) Solitaire uses a cogent bulk of animate and aluminum, and although it afresh angled its production, tariffs could potentially admission prices to the point breadth it cuts production, John Ferguson said.
“One affair we’ve been cyberbanking on for the accomplished 30 years is to try and abound all-embracing business with Mexico, and all of a abrupt you’ve got some barter tariffs, that could put a damper on that,” John Ferguson said.
Even if the arch amplification attracts added trade, Presidio about actually can’t board it afterwards accompaniment or federal assistance. It can about abutment its own association — during the holidays aback families breeze in, parking is deficient and Presidio’s two baby hotels bound book up — and aperture businesses and accretion burghal basement is a awfully apathetic process, says Nunez, the burghal councilwoman. Her brother approved to assemble a ample appointment architecture in the breadth for their ancestors company, but the acreage surveyor, which serves both Presidio and Marfa — which is about an hour’s drive arctic — was busy. Afterwards a year, the acreage architect still hadn’t completed the appropriate survey.
Presidio Canton is all-inclusive — at about 4,000 aboveboard miles, it’s three times the admeasurement of Rhode Island — and so sparsely busy that bounded government assets that affect people’s circadian lives are scarce.
There’s no Social Aegis office. The Administering of Motor Vehicles is abandoned accessible for bisected a day anniversary week, on Wednesdays. The aing absolutely action canton courthouse is in Marfa. Hurd periodically sends staffers to appointment Presidio, but his aing abiding attendance — a commune aldermanic appointment in Fort Stockton — is 153 afar away.
Presidio’s accessible library has become a de facto advice board — a ambush of the banknote poor. Carmen Elguezabel, Presidio’s library director, said bodies appointment her for all sorts of problems: to administer for federal government benefits, to booty active tests. Farmers appearance up, too, to ask for advice renewing their appropriate accessories tags.
People generally appear to Elguezabel because they charge advice advice English into Spanish. Navigating government assets afterwards English accomplishment is difficult. An estimated bisected of Presidio association allege English beneath than “very well,” according to demography data, and a whopping 98.5 percent allege a accent added than English at home.
It’s safe to accept that “other” accent is usually Spanish: 92.9 percent of households allege Spanish. Not all Presidio residents, however, are primarily Spanish-speaking.
Presidio’s academy system, which has accepted clearing to advance abecedary assimilation in such a desolate, resource-poor area, has sponsored the visas of about 30 Filipino teachers, who acquire acclimatized into a small, tight-knit association in the majority Hispanic city.
Now, graduation ante are up. And the aerial academy has a nationally accustomed rocket and robotics aggregation — aloof a few months ago, some of Presidio Aerial School’s acceptance boarded on a cross-country drive in a solar-powered car they congenital themselves.
The academy supports a abundant “at-risk” casual citizenry of acceptance that abandoned briefly alive in Presidio with addition ancestors member, usually their mother or a grandparent, and accept in the academy while their fathers biking continued distances to assignment on the oil rigs in Midland-Odessa, or on amazon farms in Marfa. Frequently, bodies move added into the accompaniment of Texas for jobs Presidio is clumsy to offer.
This conciseness is allotment of the acumen Presidio’s political admission is so feeble.
Presidio Canton historically has one of the everyman aborigine turnouts in Texas. Association authoritative reportable attack contributions gave about 29 cents per being to national-level politicians, parties and political groups during the 2016 acclamation cycle. And low political accord is appear to be alike lower aback one takes into annual the swath of Presidio association that are non-participants because of their citizenship status. Of Presidio’s recorded citizenry of 4,051, added than a third, 1,427, are not U.S. citizens, according to 2016 American Association Analysis data.
In Washington, D.C., money and votes talk, and abounding admiral in the nation’s basic aren’t alert to what Presidio residents, poor in abundance and polling base participation, acquire to say for themselves.
In 2006, as allotment of the Bush-era Defended Fences Act, Congress proposed a six-mile-long, 15-foot aerial bound bank through Presidio, which burghal admiral formally opposed.
The six afar of bank planned for Presidio in 2006 were never built, alike admitting the federal government erected at atomic 650 afar elsewhere.
The accommodation was, in part, practical: the Presidio breadth is acutely alien and its actionable bound arch alarm amount is consistently amid the everyman on the southern border.
Trump has prioritized architecture a affiliated bound wall, and he has been added balked with Congress’s abortion to armamentarium it. As Congress formed on an appropriations bill in the summer, some Senate Republicans agilely said Congress was absurd to canyon a allotment bill that includes money for the wall, alike as Trump threatens a government shutdown. They acquire been appropriate so far. The Senate anesthetized a spending bill on Sept. 16 — afterwards allotment for the bank — to course the government over for the aing brace of months. Estimates alter on how abundant a full, accurate bank spanning the U.S.-Mexico bound would cost, but alike the federal government’s best optimistic estimates peg it in the tens of billions of dollars. Annual aliment is estimated in the hundreds of millions.
Hurd about opposes Trump’s plan to body a bound bank and recognizes that Presidio may not charge a accurate wall. He represents a beat commune that stretches hundreds of afar amidst El Paso and San Antonio, and so it makes faculty to sometimes accessory himself with abstinent Republicans and Democrats. For example, aback an ice storm acquired cancellations of flights to D.C., Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic applicant active to bound U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, boarded on a alley cruise with Hurd and livestreamed their trek. O’Rourke has said he won’t endorse anyone in the race, including Hurd’s Democratic opponent, Ortiz Jones.
Neither O’Rourke nor Cruz responded to assorted requests for animadversion about Presidio.
Hurd abandoned has little ability to stop Trump from ambitious a bound bank or preventing Congress from allotment one. But he engages with Presidio and works to represent anybody behindhand of whether they voted for him, Newton said. In August 2017, Hurd captivated cloister at The Bean Cafe in Presidio, one of the town’s three basic restaurants, to altercate the challenges adverse Customs and Bound Convoying and a proposed “smart wall” — application sensor technology, instead of ample accurate and metal, to avert adjoin actionable bound crossings. Several Presidio association say a “virtual wall” is a acceptable alternative, an adumbration that Presidio residents’ opinions on bound aegis and clearing in accepted aren’t uniform.
Nunez says a absolutely accessible bound would be devastating.
Apolonia Gonzales, who runs a austerity abundance in burghal and whose bedmate works for Customs and Bound Patrol, says those who cantankerous the bound illegally into Presidio affectation no threat, and are usually aloof attractive for aliment or water.
Molly Ferguson said it’s adamantine aback bodies on the bound can’t accurately cross: They are allotment of the Presidio community. Her acceptable friend’s mother was abandoned the year she accelerating from aerial school.
Farmer Terry Bishop doesn’t necessarily appetite added bodies arch the Rio Grande assimilate his land, which ends at the Mexican border. But a bank would block his admission to river baptize for agronomics — and, he fears, account astringent ecology damage.
Most of them accede on Trump’s wall, though: It’d be advancing and annihilative to acreage — and the city’s accord with Ojinaga.
In July, aback Molly Ferguson donned her bells dress — black, abstract with chicken flowers and lined with white applique at the basal in a acceptable Oaxacan appearance — and affiliated Miguel Rodriguez, she accepted to alpha this aing allotment of their accord beneath the aforementioned roof, like best newlyweds.
But it’s never been that simple for them to cross the bound that splits their lives in two.
On their amusement in Veracruz, Mexico, Ferguson went to an atramentous concert with Rodriguez, breadth they listened to son jarocho — agnate to mariachi, but with altered instruments. Ferguson acquainted appropriate at home — afterwards all, she’s from Presidio, which draws its culture, its lifeblood, from the added ancillary of the border, she says. She embodies the notion: Ferguson and her parents calm accomplish in a mariachi bandage at weddings and parties on both abandon of the border.
But Rodriguez is ashore on the Mexico side, and that agency he couldn’t appointment Ferguson while she was accessory academy an hour abroad in Alpine. He’s never appear over to acquire banquet with her ancestors at their home in Presidio.
“It feels actually aberrant that, like, we acquire this boundary, alike admitting we’re abandoned bristles annual abroad from anniversary other. It’s actually aberrant to anticipate that a being — my bedmate — can’t appointment me,” Molly Ferguson said. “Are you badinage me?”
They dream of action breadth Ojinaga and Presidio become alike added symbiotic, unencumbered by government restrictions and actually not disconnected by a wall. The accord of these two cities, like Ferguson and Rodriguez’s own relationship, would abound stronger.
For now, this dream is on hold. Looming over them is the blackmail of an abstraction proposed in Washington, championed by bodies who represent Presidio but apperceive little of their way of life.
The Center for Accessible Integrity is a nonprofit analytic account alignment based in Washington, D.C. This adventure is allotment of the Center for Accessible Integrity’s “Abandoned in America” series, profiling communities affiliated by their abstruse needs and faculty of political abandonment at a time aback President Donald Trump’s administering has declared the nation’s war on abjection “largely over and a success.”
Disclosure: Texas Tech University has been a cyberbanking adherent of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, detached account alignment that is adjourned in allotment by donations from members, foundations and accumulated sponsors. Cyberbanking supporters comedy no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete account of them here.
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