EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — The husband of Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris made a stop in the Rio Grande Valley and met with South Texas Democratic leaders on Monday to urge border residents to ensure they are registered to vote by tonight’s deadline and to say their camp cares about border communities.
Doug Emhoff was joined Monday afternoon by U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas. Emhoff spoke for about 10 minutes to a limited and spaced-apart crowd of about 30 elected officials and members of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party in the parking lot of an event center under the blazing South Texas sun where a mariachi band played.
He and Gonzalez then handed out campaign signs and put them in the trunks of vehicles in a caravan of supporters who had been waiting in nearby cars and were honking loudly. They urged supporters to vote for Harris and to make Emhoff the first male spouse of a vice president in U.S. history.
At a time when President Donald Trump is hospitalized due to COVID-19, and this region remains a hotspot for the virus — Hidalgo County has had the second-most coronavirus-related deaths in Texas — event organizers maintained strict social distancing, and everyone was required to wear a mask.
Before going to the rally, Emhoff met with families at the McAllen airport who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, he said, including a woman whose step-father currently remains in intensive care unit.
Emhoff said if elected, Harris and Joe Biden will offer a change from the Trump administration’s stance toward immigrants, asylum-seekers and border communities. And he said they have a plan to ease the economic and health tolls that coronavirus has had, especially on border regions.
“They’re caring. They’re empathetic. They care about people and they’re going to bring that compassion back to how we deal with our border communities, which we do not have right now.” said Emhoff, a lawyer who said he would take what he had learned about the Rio Grande Valley “back to Joe and Kamala.”
He reiterated that his wife “is the daughter of immigrants” and he said she has not strayed from her roots and understands what it means to be new to this country. Harris’ mother is from India. Her father is from Jamaica.
“Both came here seeking a better life,” he said. “The days of ripping families apart and children in cages, and just denying basic fairness and decency to those who seek refuge here is over. That will change,” he said to a rousing applause.
In 2018, Hidalgo County became the epicenter of separation of families, with thousands of young migrant children divided from the undocumented adults who crossed the border with them thinking they would be allowed to stay together.
President Donald Trump reversed course on that policy but has implemented several others, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which for over a year has refused entry to asylum-seeking families and makes them remain in Mexico during their U.S. immigration court proceedings. All asylum hearings have been halted since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
About 60 miles southeast from where Emhoff spoke on Monday, about 700 migrants, including hundreds of children, live in an outdoor tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, awaiting the courts to resume hearing on their cases. Some have waited across the Rio Grande for over a year.
Emhoff on Monday also referenced recent mandates by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, that he said were designed to dissuade Democratic voters. This includes having only one voting drop-off location in each of the states’ 254 counties and making it difficult for voters to qualify to cast ballots by mail.
Monday is the deadline for registering to vote, and so far, Hidalgo County has registered over 20,000 new voters — a record number of any recent presidential election, county officials announced Monday as they waited for Emhoff to arrive. Over 3,000 new voter applications were received just in the past week, Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes told the crowd.
“Our county is going to have 20,000 new registered active voters and that is something we can all be proud of,” Fuentes said.
“This is the most important election of our lifetime but that doesn’t mean anything unless we go to show to the world that this is the most important election by showing up and voting,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
Emhoff said the Biden/Harris campaign “wants a mandate” on the election results “by turning Texas blue,” and flipping the state, which he believes would win the election for their camp, and would quash any concerns of election fraud.
Texas has 38 electoral votes, second only to California.
“Rio Grande Valley: It starts here. We can literally make history here if you all get out there … and vote,” Emhoff said before leaving for another rally on Monday at a food bank in San Antonio.
The Hidalgo County GOP is also registering voters at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Center Church in Pharr, Texas.
Donald Trump Jr. and his partner, Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, were expected to visit the city of McAllen for a “Get Out the Vote” event on Friday, but their appearance was postponed after President Trump and the first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trump Jr. is still expected to attend a luncheon in McAllen at an unspecified date before Election Day.