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Immigration Lawyer In Texas Describes His Experience At U.S.-Mexico Border


Back on the U.S. side of the border, the president sees McAllen, Texas, as the heart of what he calls a humanitarian crisis.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have people that have been so horribly hurt, families that have been so horribly hurt by people that just come in like it's - like, just come into the United States, do whatever they want. In many cases, they leave, and then they'll come back. Or in many cases, they stay.

SHAPIRO: When I visited McAllen last August, I met an immigration lawyer named Carlos Garcia. He's lived in the city all his life. And with the president's visit today, we decided to check back in with him. Hi, Carlos.

CARLOS GARCIA: How are you doing, Ari?

SHAPIRO: All right. So when you hear the president describe a crisis, does that match with what you see in your hometown?

GARCIA: Not at all. It's very disheartening to listen to him use the words that he uses to describe the place that I grew up in and that I love because it's very peaceful, quiet, calm. And this is a place where we help each other out in everything. And so listening to him is just very offensive at times.

SHAPIRO: There are also people in McAllen who support the president, and he had fans there cheering him on today. How much would you say your view is reflective of the city as a whole?

GARCIA: Yeah, there's no doubt that there was a large number of Trump supporters there today. But it's evident in the voting results in our county what people think. And a lot of people do believe that this wall is unnecessary, but there are others who don't agree with us. And so that's the complex part of living in South Texas - that we have all of these different views, but we still respect each other.

SHAPIRO: The mayor of McAllen says crime rates have gone down in the city. I went on a ride-along with Customs and Border Protection when I was there. And even though there were sections of wall, there were also plenty of people trying to cross the border. So it does seem that there is some issue that needs to be addressed, no?

GARCIA: There's definitely an immigration issue that does need to be addressed at our highest level of politics. There's no doubt that people are coming into the country unlawfully. But the rhetoric he uses to argue for building a wall is that criminals are coming in and that the wall is going to stop that. The reality is that those really bad drugs that are coming in - the majority of them are coming in through the ports of entry.

SHAPIRO: I know you were in immigration court this morning. We've heard a lot about the backlogs in those courts. Tell us about your experience.

GARCIA: So I went to immigration court, and it was dead. The reason I went was to review some files because there's some downtime right now because all of our non-detained docket has been canceled. And really, it's a skeleton crew working...

SHAPIRO: Because of the government shutdown.

GARCIA: That's correct.

SHAPIRO: So in addition to the debate over the situation on the border, the government shutdown is affecting the people you work with. What impact is that having on your clients?

GARCIA: Well, it's just a lot of confusion. Also, for instance, a final hearing that I had scheduled for a couple of days ago - there's uncertainty as to when that case will be rescheduled. That case has already been pending for about four years, so it may be another year or two down the line before that gets heard for the final time.

SHAPIRO: What's it been like today to have the president visit your hometown and describe it in a way that doesn't match your experience of the city you live in?

GARCIA: Well, it's mixed feelings because I went to the protests that were occurring when the president was landing here in McAllen. And it was very emotional. I was very proud of the community who was out there to have their voices heard in opposition to not only the wall but some of the rhetoric that the president uses. But it's also disappointing if the president doesn't really come and talk to the people who are impacted, who live in this community and who really live this life every day - whether you're a government official or an undocumented immigrant or just a regular person living here and how we live in harmony and in peace here on the southern border.

SHAPIRO: That's Carlos Garcia, an immigration attorney in McAllen, Texas. It's good to talk to you again. Thanks for joining us today.

GARCIA: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL BROOK'S "THE MINING DAYS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.