President Donald Trump's historically long government shutdown is causing an increase in illegal border crossings in Texas, The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday.
Big Bend National Park runs along a 100-mile stretch of the Rio Grande River and has a border crossing popular with American tourists looking to venture into Mexico.
Because of the shutdown, however, there are no Border Patrol agents at this point of entry, due to being considered "non-essential."
The Daily Beast explained:
"During regular operations, dozens of Big Bend visitors cross the Rio Grande daily via rowboat or wading shallow waters to explore the quaint Mexican town and spend money on guides, restaurants, and crafts. The crossing is susceptible to closures because it is manned by Big Bend law enforcement rangers who are considered 'nonessential.' Re-entry to the U.S. is conducted by a virtual customs agent via telephone."
Thus, Americans are not able to cross into Mexico, where they would normally buy crafts from residents on the other side of the border, who depend on tourism revenue for a living.
As a result, villagers from Boquillas del Carmen are crossing the Rio Grande into the United States to keep their delicate businesses alive.
The irony is rich, as Trump bellows about border security while refusing to reopen the government.
Merchants who depend on a steady stream of American customers have no other choice.
“Right now there are no tourists but I still have a family that needs to eat,” Felipe Gonzalez, a tour guide who sells bracelets and bags embroidered with "NO WALL," told The Daily Beast.
"Like many others, Gonzalez had ridden his horse across the river and left his collection of trinkets displayed on a rock with a donation jar in the morning and returned to collect his earnings in the evening."
Despite warnings against crossing the border on Big Bend's website, Gonzalez said he just wants to earn a living.
“It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just selling things to support my family.”
Gonzalez's family consists of his "wife, three daughters, two sons, two donkeys, one horse, and one cow," he told The Daily Beast.
At least seven vendor stations have been spotted along the Rio Grande's network of trails. Marcos Paredes, a former law enforcement ranger, sympathized with Gonzalez and others like him that have nowhere else to turn.
“Closing (the border crossing) off has really created a hardship for the people over there,” Paredes said. “They’re desperate for something, anything to make a little money.”
Mike Davidson, who operates one of the rowboat concessions along the border, also understood why Gonzalez and others are accepting the risk of crossing the border illegally. “If they can sell a few things," he said, "it’s virtually the only income they could have.”
"Davidson said tourists typically spend $25 to $30 while in Boquillas and estimates the shutdown has cost the village more than $50,000—a huge amount for a low-income Mexican village. Davidson’s business alone has lost around $10,000 since the start of the shutdown, most of which would have gone to his seven Mexican boat operators."
“There’s absolutely no other form of income in Boquillas at all, so it’s completely shut the local economy down,” Davidson said. “They depend 100 percent on tourism. It’s pretty devastating and it’s still not over yet."
Indeed, the impasse between Trump and Democrats in the House led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) shows no signs of easing.
Trump has signaled that he is willing to keep the government closed indefinitely, despite warnings from his own White House that the economic damage could spiral out of control as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay.
Additionally, public support for a border wall has plummeted into the red, which leaves Trump in a virtual no-win situation of his own making.