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Texas Bar Becomes Makeshift Shelter for Migrants Surging across Border

People walk down a dirt road after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States from Mexico in Penitas, Texas, March 5, 2021. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

It’s been an almost daily occurrence lately: Lupe Cabrera or one of his workers shows up at his bar on the south Texas border to find migrants waiting on the patio or hiding inside.

Cabrera’s Bar, also known at The Junkyard, is in the small city of Granjeno, along the Rio Grande River. A stretch of border fence runs along the back, except for an unfinished section just behind Cabrera’s bar that offers migrants access to his open patio and restrooms.

“When I go in the mornings, sometimes I go to do some work, there’s people in the bathroom; they hide in the bathrooms,” Cabrera told National Review. “Me and my brother own a trucking company, too. They’ll hide in the trucks.”

Cabrera’s bar got some national exposure Thursday when a Fox News reporter set up live shots out back. Cabrera said he’s seen a significant uptick in migrants over the last several weeks.

Across the Southwest, Immigrants have been surging to the U.S. border, driven in part by President Joe Biden’s pro-immigrant rhetoric and his administration’s efforts to roll back Trump-era policies. The result: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported 100,441 encounters along the Southwest border in February, up from 36,687 a year earlier.

First opened more than 60 years ago by his father, Cabrera’s bar, with its large outdoor patio, is a popular place to grab a beer or listen to live music in the small community of about 300 people. It also has long been a destination for migrants crossing the Rio Grande, Cabrera said.

The lights are usually on, making it easy for people coming across the border to find. Over the years, a lot of people have used the bar as a rendezvous spot where new arrivals can be picked up and driven away. “They use it as a ‘Where are you? I’m at the bar here,’” Cabrera said.

An Associated Press story from 2009 described Granjeno as a community where immigrants “pour through,” sometimes in large groups. But over the years, the demographics changed.

“When I was younger, you’d always see people crossing over, but it was always men,” Cabrera said. “They were coming to work.”

Now, instead of Mexican workers, he’s seeing more Central American families. He said he’s offered some migrants a shower. He recently offered a teenage boy with a baby a place to sleep on the bar’s stage. He’s even had a couple of young women give birth at the bar, including one who recently had a baby “right by the trash bin,” he said.

Cabrera said that during Donald Trump’s presidency, the number of illegal border crossings in the area dropped significantly. But they’re on the rise now. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order ending border wall construction projects, but Cabrera said he would still like to see the stretch of wall behind his bar completed.

“Most of the people I see are harmless,” Cabrera said of the migrants, “but you never know what the hell’s going on, who’s crossing, or what.”

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Ryan Mills is a media reporter at National Review. He previously worked for 14 years as a breaking news reporter, investigative reporter, and editor at newspapers in Florida. Originally from Minnesota, Ryan lives in the Fort Myers area with his wife and two sons.

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