Bud Kennedy

A scary Halloween on the border: Candy for ‘only Americans’

A sign in government housing for Border Patrol employees in Presidio reads “Only American families receive sweets.”
A sign in government housing for Border Patrol employees in Presidio reads “Only American families receive sweets.” Courtesy Alex Licon

Now that Texans have settled such weighty questions as whether we have a God-given right to hunt and fish, we can move on to a meaner election.

If Republican debates and the Houston election Tuesday are any indication, much of the campaign will involve bashing (1) same-sex equal rights laws and (2) foreigners, not necessarily in order of severity.

A scary preview of the coming nastiness came Halloween night in, of all places, the remote Big Bend border town of Presidio.

One of the many great things about Presidio is that it’s out of signal range of most poltical talk radio.

Sadly, it apparently is not far enough away to escape the spreading American epidemic of sick nativism.

On Halloween, a U.S. Border Patrol employee — either an agent or an Office of Field Operations worker — chose to greet tiny trick-or-treaters, ghosts and goblins with a chilling red,-white and blue sign.

The candy at his door was for “only American families,” the sign read.

He hasn’t commented, but the local Border Patrol public affairs officer did.

Spokesman Bill Brooks said the employee’s sign, posted on government property in newly built federal employee housing, “does not reflect the opinion of this agency. We respect all people regardless of their culture, nationality or origin.”

A woman who identified herself as a guest at an adjacent home told El Diario de El Paso that the employee was even asking children, “Are you a U.S. citizen?”

She posted a Facebook photo late on Halloween showing small children, one in a clown costume and skull mask, walking past the sign carrying plastic pumpkins for candy. Other agents were upset, she said.

Alex Licon of Presidio forwarded a different photo of the sign to a Midland-Odessa TV station.

“Presidio is a small border town and 99 percent of the population is Hispanic, so this is something I have never seen,” he wrote in an online message.

(Actually, Presidio is 94 percent Hispanic. The school-age population is 96 percent Hispanic.)

“It’s sad to see this in my town,” he wrote.

After El Paso and Midland-Odessa reporters picked up on the story, Presidio Mayor John Ferguson reacted by midday Sunday.

Halloween, he wrote on Facebook, is “always a fun day … we share it with any kids from Mexico.”

“ … I always cherish being able to experience the many festive occasions in our sister city of Ojinaga. … No one has ever told me I couldn't be a part of the celebration on these days in Mexico because I am a U.S. citizen,” he wrote

Ojinaga, Chihuahua, is the larger of the twin border cities, but the combined total population is only about 30,000.

Ferguson wrote that everyone in Presidio should “treat visitors with open hearts and open arms, as we would hope they would do the same for us.”

I guess he’s not planning to run for higher office.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.