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Border town rest stop a sanctuary for Mexican travelers heading home for holidays
Laredo, Texas, Mayor Raul Salinas talked to travelers at pop-up rest stop that helps Mexican travelers.
December 16th, 2011
07:04 PM ET

Border town rest stop a sanctuary for Mexican travelers heading home for holidays

By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN

(CNN) - A friend. A neighbor. A fellow countryman. This is what it means to be a paisano. But every Christmas, in the small border town of Laredo, Texas, it takes on another meaning.

In Laredo, paisanos are travelers, Mexican citizens who live in the United States and pass through Laredo on their way to visit loved ones in Mexico for the holidays. Laredo is the last stop before crossing the border - some have driven from far-away states - and the journey can be a stressful one.

That's why the city of Laredo, in partnership with the Mexican General Consulate, staffs a pop-up rest stop to ease travelers concerns. They call it the Paisano Rest Stop, and it will be open for 48 continuous hours this weekend, starting Friday.

The Paisano Rest Stop is a 14-year tradition fueled by a close-knit American community that prides itself on its proximity to Mexico. The mayor greets thousands of travelers with a handshake and a hug. They sip hot chocolate, share snacks and huddle under heaters in the cold night. Patrons are offered information on road conditions and safe places to park their cars to take a nap. They can meet with officials about the necessary documents to cross the border.

As the political climate along the Texas-Mexico border has changed, many travelers are nervous when they approach the border.

"The level of violence in Mexico, as we all know, has increased," Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said. "Most people now travel during the daylight hours. But U.S. and Mexico officials want to assure them that the roads are constantly patrolled by police and military units all along the freeways and highways. This gives people a sense of relief."

Paisanos are also briefed on what to do if they're attacked in Mexico. They receive valuable information on how to report crimes at the Mexican Consulate, and are taught how to spot fraudulent nationalization processing businesses.

"People just want to get home. No other city on the U.S.-Mexico border does this. We want to make it as safe as possible," Salinas said. "We facilitate the paisanos' crossing experience, because we appreciate what the Mexican citizens do in the United States. They're just like family. It’s a beautiful tradition."

For years, Luis Campa has helped the paisanos make the pilgrimage. He's an auto mechanic from Tamaulipas, Mexico, who now lives in the United States and owns a repair shop in Laredo. Every year, Campa brings his tool box and his service supplies to the Paisano Rest Stop, where he'll change flat tires, drive people to fuel, or simply chat with solo drivers who have covered hundreds of miles without seeing a single soul.

"I asked the Mexican Consulate if I could help my fellow countrymen in any way," Campa said.

That was eight years ago. He's answered the call every Christmas since then, waking up at 3 a.m. so he can be there by 4 a.m., even in rain or snow.

"Sometimes people want to give me money," he said. "I will not accept it. God is watching and if I receive a cent, then I'm not truly there to help."

The poor economy forced many of last year's holiday paisanos to stay in Mexico, so Laredo may not see as many travelers this weekend.

But those who make it will get a warm 'bienvenidos,' from helpers like Campa.

"I think God has helped me become a mechanic and to grow a small business," he said. "I have to give back."

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. G HAINES

    IF I WERE PRESIDENT OF THE USA. I WOULD WITHDRAW ALL OF OUR TROOPS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND HAVE THEM HOLD HANDS ACROSS THE ENTIRE SOUTHERN BORDER. THEN CALL PHILLIPE CALDERON AND ADVISE HIM HE HAS 1 WEEK TO GET HIS INVASION FORCE OF 20 MILLION MEXICANS OUT OF MY COUNTRY. AND WHEN THAT DOESNT HAPPEN, I WOULD ATTACH MEXICO!! BUT IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE. THEIR INVASION FORCE OUT BREEDS US 10 TO 1 AND IN A FEW GENERATIONS THEY WILL HAVE THE VOTE. WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF MEXICO!!!

    December 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AMERICAN BORN AND RAISED

    SIMPLE: YOU BORN HERE, YOU ARE AN AMERICAN!!! YOU'RE BORN ANYWHERE ELSE, YOU ARE NOT!!!!!

    December 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • American because my relatives moved here from Europe

      say that to your ancestors.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. AMERICA 1st

    Once the wetbacks cross that border, keep em there and dont let em back into the USA. Theyre not wanted here and dont belong here!

    December 18, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Thomas Klimchuk

    The Mexicans still reguard all those border states they lost or the US paid for after the American Mexican war as Mexican territory They wont amitt it though

    December 18, 2011 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Showmeyerpapers

    Better hope the next pres gets it right, many many americans have nothing left to lose. Once enough of us get there it will be as they say "on". Trust me theres a whole hell of alot of rage here for you mexicans out of your league

    December 17, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      LET HOPE THE SUPREME COURT RULE IN FAVOR OF ARIZONA...I'M 75 % SURE THAT THEY WILL....HISPANIC GUY FOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT. I SUPPORT JOE ARPAIO SHERIFF OF ARIZONA.....I EVEN SEND A CONTRIBUTION TO HELP FINISH BUILDING THE WALL ON THE SOUTH BORDER... NOT ALL HISPANICS SUPPORT THE ILLEGALS... AMERICA FIRST HERE.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      I'M VOTING FOR ROMNEY, I THINK HE WILL BE THE GOP CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT. ROMNEY WILL DO A BETTER JOB ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT THAN OBAMA...OBAMA LOVES ILLEGALS MORE THAN AMERICANS.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Showmeyerpapers

    Still got my vote Mr Cain. Herman my man, my main man,the "hermanator" got the nwo scared to death . The man will allow the states to enforce the dadgum law against mehicos invasion of our lives! That would ruin everything for the nwo. Illegals must have murdered at least 250 000 americans in the last 50 years. Cant you hear their blood scream for justice from their graves? Our american brothers and sisters victims of federal ethnic cleansing! Sometimes at night i can hear a car horn stuck on as if in an accident,then another and another and so on when one goes silent the tune is carried on by others till they fill the night with the constant blare,the horrific ane sickening symphony of americans getting wiped out by illegal "hispanic" drivers, theyre wiping out entire families daily

    December 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Showmeyerpapers

    What about all the areas of our country where the standard of living is govt aid, where the american society has been utterly destroyed and unrecognizable. We once had the greatest nation on earth, now in so many places all we have is "the streets" depressed mehican varios or barrios as they are so proud to say. My once quiet street is now a mexexpressway . The clovis were here long before any mehicans or indians ever existed and they were WHITE. I say deport them all every single one of them, if theyve married americans send them along. Its time to go home and fix their rathole country and stop sucking us dry and preying on innocent americans!

    December 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      MANY PARTS OF AMERICA LOOK LIKE TIAJUANA MEXICO...OR THAT POOR BEAT DOWN TOWN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE U.S. BORDER-JUARE MEXICO ? WHERE THE DRUG DEALERS ARE KILLING ANYONE THAT MOVE..

      December 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Showmeyerpapers

    Not only have illegal invaders slit the throats of the working man they are responsible for 75% of the crime here in denver radioreference dot com monitor police and ems frequencies for yourself they must have killed 250000Americans in the last 50 years look at lapd online all most wanted 95% spanic. I knew newt was the s samich. I dont care if an illegal sailed with washington , REMOVE THEM! The states want the laws ENFORCED PERIOD! Theyll bankrupt EVERY STATE! LOOK AT CALIFORNIA FOR GOD SAKE! Mehico is a cultural catastrophe and our govt has helped them spread their societal ills across our great nation. We would have the highest standard of living on earth if it wasnt for the constant stranglehold on our economy due to the invasion and occupation of our soverign land. Look noone wants to break up families just be sure to get them all on the same bus with the anchor offspring seated up front. What about all the american families torn apart by the federal invasion policy in effect. The

    December 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fernando ode

    There are no TRUE AMERICANS with exemption of the native indians. All the rest are imported from somewhere else.
    Legal or ilegal, still we are Immigrants and human beings, non different from the rest.
    The economic issue is hitting us because the wealth is switching hands from USA and Europe to Asia and soon to SouthAmerica. Minimum wages are and can be made in Mexico and other Emerging Latin Countries, reason why "ilegals "are not coming, instead they are leaving including the "legals" and even the True Americans.
    If this hate is still going on, we will loose that special condition only seen in USA, and we will end going back to the old west shooting each other. I hope common sense reaches our minds and hearts, soon.

    December 17, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mrs Warren

      are you kidding me? " DNA test them and make them work in the desert?"... " If they are married to Americans deport them along with the immigrant as well" Well who the hell do you think you are? Its small minded thinking like this that keep this country from moving forward. Not ever latino out there is Mexicans and not ever latino out there is ILLEGAL. Some of us paid out dues and did things right. Get over your bigoted Ideas and maybe you can find real solutions to the lack of work problems.

      December 21, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. TashaVallejoMendez

    Let us not forget "us Mexicans" aren't the ONLY decendants of Immigrants. I am a Long Haul Trucker/Veteran of the US NAVY. In my chosen proffessions i have seen and met all sorts of illegal immigrants from SOMOLIA, France, China,Korea...just to name a few. If we as americans are to "insist on kicking out" immigrants just remember MEXICANS aren't the ONLY immigrants here.

    December 17, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. Economystic Extraordinaire

    Put an import tariff on all goods from those countries that these illegal immigrants originate from. Mexico-Corona beer, fruits and vegetables, cars, trucks anything we import to America from Mexico and Central and South America – put a tax on it such that the total funds will be enough to capture, house, maintain and return the illlegals, and pay to protect our borders from their people. Increase the price of visas from those countries too. If they want to get here make them pay for it. Then we can use the money to pay for sending them back.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. Economystic Extraordinaire

    We just need to continue to give them the incentive to leave. More drug busts, more employer busts, more deportations. And announce that they will all have 6 months to leave the country at which time they will be arrested and DNA profiled and put on work camps near the border in the desert areas of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona for two years then they can walk home to mexico. Also after the 6 month grace period we need to place a bounty on them. $10 a piece; $20 for any employer who hires them and any landlord who houses them. Those landlords and employers will be fined $1,000 per day for each illegal they house or employ.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Zemprank

      That's the reported mubner of illegals (12.5 million)...we really know that mubner is much greater. There is another 14.7 million unemployed persons (as of June 2009) in the United States and a large majority of them are illegal.

      April 18, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Economystic Extraordinaire

    "Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, take jobs that few native-born Americans would willingly occupy." Americans are unwilling to take those jobs at the wage, benefit and working conditions that criminals accept. If the employers would pay The American Standard, Americans would take the jobs. By utilizing criminal labor, employers can reduce their costs. As all employers, collectively, commit this injustice that reduces the value of the outcome of their production efforts, and again collectively, devalues our GDP and our country.

    Its not the work – ITS the MONEY. If farms would pay a decent wage then
    Americans would do the work but the farmers know they don't have to pay decent wages because there are so many illegals here that will work for substandard wages in substandard conditions for excessive hours with no benefits. (And democracy is supposed to support human rights. This is the kind of capitalism overkill that prompted child labor laws, building codes resulting from the sweatshop fires, etc. )

    December 17, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Economystic Extraordinaire

    If you need a bus to hit you to help you understand, let me drive it. 18 million
    Americans Unemployed, 18 million illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants cost this country $1.2 trillion per year, The annual budget deficit is $1.2 trillion. WHAT DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?

    December 17, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. Economystic Extraordinaire

    It is not hate, it is the law; a law that has been being abused by too many, for too long. It is time to stop the abuse. We hate being abused. We want it stopped. This is the way to stop it. We have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, 18 million Americans unemployed while we carry 18 million illegal immigrants. We have $2.2 trillion annual budget deficit while illegal immigrants cost Americans $2.2 trillion a year in welfare, health care and education benefits. Have you no sense of logic? The law needs to be applied equally in all situations to be fair to all and effective. Believe me we are all understanding and sympathetic but we can't allow the law to be abused. That is what is happening when people come here illegally whether they did it yesterday or 50 years ago. If you let people get away with this then every other illegal immigrant and the potential immigrants still in mexico will think they can also break the law and be forgiven later like these people.
    Send them ALL back to be fair to all of them here, legally and illegally, and the ones still in mexico who want to be here legally and illegally.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  16. Economystic Extraordinaire

    Even Canada is starting to build a wall/fence/moat to keep the messickans that are freely crossing our border into America from entering Canada. That is how bad this is getting.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  17. Economystic Extraordinaire

    If this border issue is going to be such a divisive issue I think we should establish a DMZ zone along the entire border. Anyone caught in the middle, just like in the Korea DMZ, is subject to be shot. We should fill the rio Grande with perahna fish and cotton mouth water moccocins.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  18. Economystic Extraordinaire

    George McCubbin, a president of the National Border Patrol Council, the agency's union. He believes the U.S. government needs to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, increase penalties against those caught in the country illegally, cut off social services for others and put more agents at the border.

    December 17, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      And why do you think that's not happening? I'll tell you why, because it's in these politicians best interest not to make it tough on these business owners who put them in office that's why they keep chasing the tail instead of cutting off the head.

      December 20, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Economystic Extraordinaire

    The NUMBER ONE issue to tackle which incidentally will solve five major national financial problems at once is ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. The best way to CREATE JOBS is to deport all illegal immigrants NOW. First that will create thousands and thousands of seriously needed immigration and border patrol agent jobs right off the bat. Second, as the illegal immigrants are removed and deported the jobs they leave will be available for TRUE AMERICANS. Third, by having TRUE AMERICANS employed then the TAXES WILL BE PAID to the government (instead of the employers of illegal immigrants keeping that money to avoid being detected for employing illegal immigrants). Fourth, by deporting illegal immigrants we SAVE OVER A TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR as a nation since hard working TRUE AMERICANS currently pay taxes to support THE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE BEING USED BY THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WHO WILL NO LONGER BE HERE. (NOT COINCIDENTALLY THIS IS ALMOST EXACTLY EQUAL TO OUR ANNUAL NATIONAL BUDGET DEFICIET) Fifth, we won't be spending real taxpayer dollars on health (including anchor babies) education and welfare on multiple fraudulent/fake identifications for each of these individuals. And finally, as a BIG BONUS it will prove to America and the rest of the world that we are serious about getting our country back on our feet which is the biggest inducement (GLOBAL CONSUMER CONFIDENCE) that will be immediately affected. America and the world need to witness this confidence.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • pro-immigration

      lol... wow it really amaze me the level of stupidity you have by saying "TRUE AMERICANS" really look at the map more closely and you will see that any body that lives in the North, central, and south America is an American. second we are not leaving because The U.S. Census Bureau reports the Hispanic population has surpassed 50 million and accounted for more than half of the 27.3-million population increase in the last decade. so my friend i should say AMIGO you better star learning spanish so you dont get left behind... 😀 so we are not leaving!!! we are here to stay and to make this country a better place.

      December 17, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
      • Cheyenne

        Want to make a country a better place. How about MEXICO go home and make it a better place.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • wmurderface

        That's it keep telling U.S. citizens to learn spanish. Don't want to leave fine you can help make the grass green 🙂

        December 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |