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How Migrants In Reynosa, Mexico, Are Reacting To Trump's Speech


Tomorrow, President Trump travels to McAllen, Texas, to visit those he says are on the front lines of what he calls a growing national security and humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been in Reynosa, Mexico. It's right across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas. She watched the president's Oval Office speech last night with a group of migrants. And she has been gathering reaction in Reynosa. Today, she joins us from the town's central square, just about a block from the border. Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: A lot of immigrants who are deported from the United States are taken to Reynosa. What are you hearing from folks in that community?

KAHN: There are a lot of deportees here and migrants in this city. And officials are concerned about that situation. If you look at the migrants - Mexicans that are deported from the U.S., the majority of them come to this northern Mexican state. And a lot of them come here to Reynosa. Officials tell me they're just not equipped to really handle the large number of deported migrants and the migrants coming from Central America. There isn't a strong enough industrial base to give them jobs. They become targets and victims of crime by gangs that are actually targeting them directly to kidnap them, get ransom money from them - all sorts of things. So people and officials here in the city are very worried and concerned about the situation with the migrants right now.

SHAPIRO: I understand you spoke with Reynosa's mayor today. How did she react to what we heard from President Trump last night?

KAHN: She was interesting. She was very outspoken. I caught her at an event she was going to celebrate the police force here in Reynosa. And I asked her about what she thinks about him coming tomorrow and the wall and everything. And she went into this long discussion about how walls don't work and went through a history lesson of walls around the world that don't work between countries. It sounded a lot like she was saying the same Democratic talking points that we heard last night too.

She said the wall is too expensive. It doesn't work. There's more modern technology that could be used. There's more cooperation. And she said what really needs to happen is the root causes of immigration - more jobs, better jobs, more opportunities for young people - needs to take place in Mexico and also in Central America, which is sending a lot of the migrants here north into Mexico. So that's her point. And she was very firm about that.

SHAPIRO: And what has Mexico's new president said today? How did he respond?

KAHN: It's interesting. He has had a very hands-off non-confrontational relationship he's trying to build with President Trump. And he was true to form this morning. Every morning, he holds a press conference. And he was asked, you know, right off the bat, what did he think of President Trump's speech. And he just didn't want to engage in it at all. He said, these are internal political situations in the United States, and it's not our place to enter. He wants - they're having a quiet relationship now, and he wants to keep it that way. And that was clear today.

SHAPIRO: Has this event been getting the same kind of attention in Mexico that it's been getting in the U.S. over the last day or so?

KAHN: You know, actually, Ari, I'm going to tell you. It is not. The biggest problem right now and the biggest worry that Mexicans have right now is about getting gas. There is a tremendous gas shortage as the new president is trying to crack down on fuel theft, which is huge in this country. And here in Reynosa, there's very few gas stations open, and the lines are immense. People were sleeping in their cars overnight. So that's really what people are talking about. Not very many - even here at the border - really aren't focused on President Trump. We'll have to see tomorrow when he comes to McAllen, Texas, right across the Rio Grande.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn taking the pulse of the community in Reynosa, Mexico, just over the border from Texas. Thanks, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.