The gulf between undocumented Central American migrants crossing the border and the Valley’s Latinos is deep and wide.
Many Mexican-Americans have lived in the area for four or five generations, or proudly claim that their parents and grandparents came to the United States legally. They know Border Patrol agents and undocumented Mexican immigrants who have lived and worked in border towns for years. Republicans say they don’t see their views on immigration as hypocritical or anti-Hispanic. Instead, they see themselves as a bulwark for law and order. Several thousand Border Patrol agents live and work in the area, many of them Hispanic, adding to the emerging law enforcement ethos in churches, schools and local politics.
“We are in a war – a war of ideas,” said Jessica Martinez, 33, a Brownsville housewife who said she never voted until she voted for Mr. Trump in 2020, after he became frustrated with the relentless anger against him from liberals. “That’s how we as Christians see it. We feel attacked.”
In Harlingen, Mr. Cabrera turned the church entrance into a retail space. He displays and sells T-shirts that read Make America Godly Again and Make America Repent. For years, he said, he avoided talking about politics from the pulpit. But in the past year he has hosted several Republican leaders at the church, including Mr. Abbott.
“I want to bring God back into politics,” Cabrera said. “And that’s what I did.”
‘I worry about our values’
Joe Cadriel, a 57-year-old Gulf War veteran of Desert Storm and a retired social worker, rarely posts campaign ads in his front yard. But he made an exception for Ms. Flores, the Brownsville Republican is running for Congress.
Cadriel and his wife, Diana, a retired educator, both voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and then cast their ballots for Trump four years later, confident that she would protect the southern border, just 10 miles from them. Weslaco’s house.
The couple grew up in the Rio Grande Valley as children of conservative Democrats, and they have a proud independent nature. Mr Cadriel has been angered by illegal immigration for as long as he can remember – he said he once left work because he felt too angry to see food stamps and other benefits go to the children of illegitimate immigrants.
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