Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took control of a public park in a border city plagued by illegal immigration without warning on Wednesday, its mayor alleged Thursday.
Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas said the state seized Shelby Park, erecting fences to keep citizens out without any notice as part of Abbott’s emergency declaration to combat the migrant crisis.
Shelby Park, which abuts the Rio Grande, has been flooded with migrants crossing into Texas via the dangerous river.
“That is not a decision that we agreed to,” Salinas said in an impassioned speech Thursday.
“This is not something that we wanted. This is not something that we asked for as a city.”
Wednesday night, fencing had already blocked off the entrances and military trucks were parked inside, video Salinas shared shows.
According to Salinas, Texas’ Department of Public Safety told Eagle Pass officials that the state was seizing the 50-acre public park through a disaster declaration, an authority Texas officials have used before on the border.
In addition to reportedly offering no timetable, the state did not disclose how long they anticipated holding control over the park — meaning that a trove of events and festivals planned for the spring could be canceled.
“They will be denying access,” Salinas said. “Again, this is not the city of Eagle Pass denying access to the park. This is the state using that emergency declaration.”
A spokesperson for Abbott did not respond to questions on whether the notice was sent without previous warning.
“Texas will continue to deploy Texas National Guard soldiers, DPS troopers, and more barriers, utilizing every tool and strategy to respond to President Biden’s ongoing border crisis,” spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement.
The Department of Public Safety referred questions to the Texas Military Department, which did not respond to requests for comment.
A message left for Salinas was not immediately returned.
The mayor said he was looking at every legal avenue to fight against the takeover.
Other than being enraged by the state’s takeover of city land, Salinas questioned why the move comes after illegal crossings dropped this week once Mexico stepped up security and migrant deportations.
Arrests for illegal crossings into the US from Mexico fell to about 2,500 on Monday, down from more than 10,000 on several days in December, according to US authorities.
Daily apprehensions stand around 400 to 500, Salinas claimed.
Just last month, however, Eagle Pass had been a hub for illegal immigration and saw thousands cross the border over the summer.
The surge led Abbott to renew an emergency declaration that “the surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas–Mexico border posed an ongoing and imminent threat of disaster.”