Jim Darling is the mayor of McAllen, Texas. On January 10, Darling greeted Donald Trump at the southern border. Darling has previously stated his opposition to a border wall. The town is linked to Mexico via the Anzalduas International Bridge which stretches across the Rio Grande. The city limits of the town extend to the river. Darling is neither a Democrat or a Republican.
In the midst of the government shutdown over funding for Trump’s wall, Trump has denied that his trip to McAllen is a “photo-op,” according to the New York Times. The Times notes that at the time of Trump’s visit, the crime rate in McAllen is at a 30-year low. NBC News reported on the day of Trump’s visit that a test of a steel prototype for Trump’s wall showed that it could be cut through with a saw.
In addition to meeting with Darling, Trump is also expected to meet with other border officials while making his case for a border wall. Jim Darling first invited Trump to the border in January 2017.
Here’s what you need to know about the mayor of the safest city in Texas:
1. Mayor Darling Said More Migrants Came Across in 2014 Than in 2018
Just prior to Trump’s visit to McAllen, Darling told USA Today that more migrants came across the border in 2014 than in 2018. Darling said, “To me, the real crisis is that the government has not gotten together to get the real issues resolved.” During the 2014 influx, Darling told George Stephanopoulos, “We don’t think it’s a crisis. We’re doing everything – efforts here at the border to make sure it doesn’t turn into a crisis.” Darling said that he expected the local government to spend $500,000 on helping migrants by the end of 2014.
The Houston Chronicle reported that on January 9, Darling did five hours worth of media interviews ahead of Trump’s visit. McAllen told the Chronicle that Trump’s rhetoric “gives the impression to the rest of the country that we’re really a no man’s land, that it’s terrible down here, it’s lawless, etcetera, when that’s far from the truth… If you have to declare a national emergency because of the border, it implies there’s something wrong with us.” Darling added, “The river is a relatively effective deterrent. It’s not the best deterrent. But if you build a wall north of there, you’re ceding territory between the wall and the river to the cartels or whoever it is.” Darling went on to say that he, and everyone in his city, are in favor border security saying, “Everybody here is in favor of a secure border. But the wall is not only a symbol, it’s become the argument, and that’s unfortunate. It’s a political football, and we’re right in the middle of it.”
2. Darling Has Said in the Past that Illegal Immigration Is a ‘Real Problem’
In January 2017, Darling told Time Magazine of his belief that illegal immigration was a “real problem.” Though Darling said that the problem is a foreign policy one, relating to the poverty and crime in Central America, rather than border security problem. Darling told the magazine that he thought the federal government should have sent social workers to the border to process those coming across instead of United States Customs and Border Protection officers. Darling also told Time, “To the average person—just like, the average voter in Wisconsin—the wall is a great idea. They ought to ask the people on the border.”
Darling told the Texas Observer in June 2017 of how Mexican people who come across the border contribute to the local economy. Darling said McAllen was a “poster child of NAFTA.” He said that his town’s population balloons from 140,000 to 250,000 during an average day. Darling said that it was typical of Democrats who visit his area to get photos taken at detention centers while Republicans go to the river. During one instance on the river with a GOP delegation, Darling said a party boat of partying Mexican people went by. Darling said, “They were dancing and drinking and waving. It was pretty funny.” His final quotes in the story see Darling send a message to Mexican citizens who come to McAllen, “We are friends. And they are always welcome here.”
3. Darling Is a Native New Yorker Vietnam Veteran Who Wound Up in Southern Texas
Darling took office as the 20th mayor of McAllen in January 2013. In an interview with Texas Border Business, Darling spoke about a range of topics. He mentioned that he is a Vietnam veteran, having served two tours in the Air Force between 1967 and 1971 and with the U.S. Navy Reserve between 1973 and 1977. Darling is a native of Rochester, New York.
In 1975, Darling graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Psychology and then from Baylor’s law school in 1977. Darling told Texas Border Business that there were more jobs in McAllen than in Waco, where Baylor is located, which led him to the city. His first job was in the city attorney’s office. Prior to becoming mayor, Darling served as the city’s commissioner. During the interview, Darling spoke about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the region to Mexico.
4. Darling Is Married With 6 Children
Darling lives in McAllen with his wife, Sandra. The couple has six children, three sons and three daughters, together. After his election, Darling said in an interview that his wife had been “fantastic” during the campaign. Darling added that he needed her support “because otherwise, you can’t throw yourself into it like you should.” When asked if he had to make sacrifices to become mayor, Darling said, “Yes, I mean time with my wife. I don’t sacrifice because I love what I’m doing.”
5. Darling Did Not Pick a Side Between Ted Cruz & Beto O’Rourke
Darling did not publicly endorse either Beto O’Rourke or Senator Ted Cruz in the heated November 2018 senate election. Darling did tell the McAllen Monitor that he was proud of both Cruz and O’Rourke’s defenses of free speech. When asked about O’Rourke’s defense of NFL players who choose to kneel for the national anthem, Darling said, “I listened to Beto’s explanation and I didn’t find it offensive at all. I’ve been listening to a lot of criticism people have had with it; that it’s disrespectful for the flag and to veterans who gave their lives to fight. As a veteran, what makes this country great is freedom. That’s what we fight for.” Darling also said that in 2017, when Senator Cruz was faced with protests upon a visit to McAllen, Cruz said, “I will say you have the right to speak, and I will always defend your right to speak and participate in the democratic process. That’s what makes us free; that’s what makes us America.” Darling said of Cruz’s response, “He could’ve taken it a lot of different ways, but he said, ‘It’s the Fourth of July; you’re expressing yourself. This is America; we’re free.”
In 2014, the Washington Post wrote an article that pondered if the Republican party could win the Hispanic vote in Texas. Darling was quoted in the piece as saying, “This is the first time in my memory… that we’ve had the interest of the politicians. For years, the Democrats kind of took our county for granted, and the Republicans didn’t think they’d make any inroads.”