McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A day after the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily allowed Title 42 to remain on the Southwest border, several South Texas leaders gathered for a town hall meeting to discuss what they called a crisis and chaos on the border.

Panelists didn’t all agree Tuesday on possible solutions or what is driving the problem, but they agreed that Congress hasn’t done enough. Each speaker invited the Biden administration to come take a peek at what is really happening on the border in the Rio Grande Valley.

Migrant children play games in Reynosa, Mexico, as they wait to cross the border to claim asylum in the United States in February. (Courtesy Photo by Westside Baptist Church)

U.S. Rep.-elect Monica De La Cruz, the first woman and the first Republican to be elected to represent Texas’ 15th Congressional District, took a more middle-of-the-road approach than she exhibited during her past two years of campaigning.

She pledged to work with her soon-to-be Democratic colleagues to find a “bipartisan solution.” But while they craft legislation, she said that the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico” policy, should be reimplemented. And she wants the longstanding “catch-and-release” policy to end.

“Both sides of the aisle agree that we need immigration reform. That is not a question. The question is when do we do this?” De La Cruz said. “And first, we have to secure our borders. … Title 42 needs to remain in place until we can get some of these legislative decisions made.”

Before the hour-long discussion, she told Border Report that she hopes the Supreme Court will permanently extend Title 42.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, left, was joined by Congresswoman-Elect Monica De La Cruz, and rancher Greg La Mantia, right, at a town hall meeting held Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, by the U.S. Hispanic Business Council in McAllen, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“I hope that that is not just a temporary move, but a permanent move until we have some immigration reform. Right here in the Rio Grande Valley, between Brownsville and McAllen on the Mexican side of Matamoros and Reynosa, we have 10,000 immigrants waiting to cross. When those immigrants cross, if they cross at the same time, that will have catastrophic effects to our border communities,” De La Cruz told Border Report.

About 55 miles separate the Mexican border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, in the state of Tamaulipas, but both are located in areas controlled by drug cartels and rife with criminal activities. Migrant advocates say the immediate expulsion of asylum-seekers under Title 42 has placed migrants in dangerous conditions and they urge that the order be lifted for more humanitarian treatment of those seeking to live in the United States.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez also was a panelist at Tuesday’s town hall meeting sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Business Council.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez is a former mayor of McAllen who worries about migrants amassing south of the border ready to cross. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Cortez told Border Report that he is watching the situation develop in El Paso, where thousands of migrants per day have been crossing the border from Juarez, many sleeping on the streets of the West Texas city.

“Thank God we don’t have that situation here but we could have that situation,” Cortez said.

Cortez says he has already prepared an emergency declaration, and could quickly sign and issue it if needed.

“I want to be able to move quickly and try to get the resources that I need to deal with the situation,” Cortez said.

The mayor of El Paso on Saturday issued a disaster declaration and is preparing his city for the possible arrival of 20,000 migrants he says are amassing south of the border in Juarez, waiting for the opportunity to cross if Title 42 is lifted.

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande to surrender to US Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on December 13, 2022. (Photo by Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images)

Cortez says Title 42 needs to remain until meaningful immigration reform is passed by Congress. He says reforms need to include methods for quicker asylum hearings and not add to the millions of backlogged immigration cases.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University reports there are over 2 million pending cases nationwide — the most ever.

TRAC Graphic

“I believe that Title 42 is a band aide to a problem, but at least it’s a band aide. It’s helping us to manage a very bad situation,” Cortez said. “We know our country will continue to deal with immigrants wanting to come to this country. Everybody wants to come to this country.”

Everybody wants to come to this country.”

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

Cortez said the issue is multi-tiered and focusing solely on border security will not resolve the underlying issues driving migrants North.

“That’s Congress’ job. They need to sit down and figure that out because an enforcement-only policy will never solve the problem,” Cortez said.

Dante Galeazzi, president of the Texas International Produce Association, said federal lawmakers continue “to kick the can” when it comes to enacting immigration reform measures.

He says the agriculture industry lacks enough migrant workers and he advocates that the Biden administration bring back a program like the Bracero Program, which allowed millions of Mexican farm workers to legally come and work in the United States from 1942-1964.

He says produce prices could likely increase if the labor force isn’t bolstered.

“Produce prices could go up and the average consumer has no idea,” Galeazzi said. “They just get caught up in the rhetoric.”