Immigration advocates plan during Charro Days

Local organizing coalition Frontera Progressives announced the group will attend the Charro Days parade Saturday in Brownsville, in protest of the festival’s decision to welcome federal agencies that have enforced highly contested Trump administration policies like family separation and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program.

In a statement issued Thursday, the coalition said it will demonstrate against the ongoing participation of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Color Guard Parade that precedes the Charro Days International Parade.

Organizers specified that the coalition does not intend to target individuals working with the agencies, but rather opposes the federal government’s enforcement of policies that have negatively impacted Rio Grande Valley residents.

Charro Days did not respond to a request for comments.

Frontera Progressives sent an open letter to Charro Days, Inc. last month asking the agency to formally remove the agencies from the parade.

Charro Days responded, writing, “Charro Days Inc. was ‘Created to lift community spirits during difficult times.’ Article 12 of our by-laws simply states: ‘Charro Days Inc. is an enterprise undertaking of all the PEOPLE of Brownsville and the immediate surrounding community of such city. We understand and recognize the views of all, but we are not a political or governmental agency.”

“We will continue our community’s celebration and provide activities in a non-threatening, family-oriented tradition,” the festival wrote.

On Thursday, Frontera Progressives organizer Mark Kaswan said the coalition is “disappointed that the Charro Days Organization does not agree with us. In denying our request, the Charro Days Organization notes that they ‘provide activities in a non-threatening, family-oriented tradition.’ That’s exactly why we are calling for Border Patrol and ICE to be excluded from the parade. Many people in the Brownsville community feel threatened by CBP and ICE.”

Kaswan’s fellow organizer Denise Molina-Castro specified that undocumented Brownsville residents and DACA recipients feel they are directly targeted by the agencies, and that this concern also impacts family members and friends who have legal status.

“CBP and ICE have torn families apart, threatening even legal residents with deportation and, in some cases, deporting U.S. citizens. Citizens have had their citizenship questioned, with ICE demanding proof of birth in the U.S. beyond a birth certificate. These actions have instilled fear across much of the local community,” she said in the statement.

The group addressed Brownsville residents who work for the agencies, writing that those employees “are people who see it as a good job with good benefits, and perhaps as a way to serve their country.”

“We have no desire to target individual Border Patrol or ICE agents. Prior to the extreme policies of that last few years, we saw little reason to protest. Times have changed. As long as they continue their aggressive enforcement of these policies that are damaging to the people of Brownsville and Matamoros, we will defend our community and protest their participation in the parade.”