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Border-Town Mayor: ‘We’re The Safest City in the State of Texas’

McAllen, Texas, a city of 130,000 people on the Mexican border, is one of the safest communities in the state. But Jim Darling, McAllen’s mayor, often struggles to convince others of this fact. The reason, of course, is McAllen’s large immigrant population. “We’re trying to recruit retail and businesses in the industry, and the first thing they ask us is, What about the safety?” Darling says. “They think it’s dangerous here because of the response and rhetoric of the national media. But we’re the safest city in the state of Texas!”

In fact, Darling can attest to just how much McAllen has benefited from its immigrant population. Many Mexicans who left their home country to escape violence settled in McAllen, and they have quickly become hardworking members of the community. Darling estimates that their spending accounts for nearly a third of the city’s sales tax revenue. “Entrepreneurs, a lot of restaurant owners, they moved their businesses up here,” Darling says. A flurry of new hotels and restaurants on the west side of town were made possible largely because of Mexican immigrants, he says. “I would estimate that at least 50 percent of our new economic growth is coming from Mexico and Mexican investors.”

I would estimate that at least 50 percent of our new economic growth is coming from Mexico and Mexican investors.

Darling would like to see immigration reform that works to keep America and its citizens safe, but that also provides a path to documentation for law-abiding immigrants, who are here working, contributing to the economy. “Yes, we need to concentrate on the criminal element, but for those who are here, educated, and working, well, we need them,” he says. “We should give them some kind of status and figure out the course from there. It gets them out of the shadows, and until they can come out of the shadows, we’re hindering productivity.”

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