PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the only Hispanic, so far, running for the Republican presidential nomination, visited the border wall in South Texas on Thursday and heard from local leaders about immigration issues, which he says are a national “crisis.”

Suarez, 45, walked along the 18-foot-tall metal bollards and questioned why some parts of the wall were much shorter than others.

GOP presidential hopeful Miami Mayor Francis Suarez criticized the difference in bollard sizes of the border wall in Pharr, Texas, during a visit on Aug. 10, 2023. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

He said he believes more federal resources should be put into programs that would address the root causes of migration and bolster economies in the northern hemisphere.

He said less emphasis should be put on trade with China, which he calls “an adversary.”

“We first have to have a legal and orderly process of immigration in this country and that starts obviously with this crisis at the border, but I think it goes beyond that. We have to look at the root cause of why are people coming to the United States. And they’re coming seeking opportunities and we have an opportunity, as well, to do something that is in our own benefit as a country, which is to bring a half a trillion dollars worth of trade that we’re sending to China, which is our adversary, and bring it to our hemisphere. Create prosperity in our hemisphere, and reduce the pressure of immigration to our country,” Suarez said.

“We have to look at the root cause of why are people coming to the United States.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

“Prioritize our neighbors by investing in the Americas in a way that reduces China’s influence in our economy and alleviate the pressures that push Latin American immigrants to our borders — principally poverty and crime,” he said.

Fluent in Spanish and the son of Cuban immigrants, he told Border Report that he believes, as president, he could unite the country on the very divisive issue of immigration.

“I have connections and roots to this community from my heritage. I also am the son of immigrants, one generation, so I feel this issue. I also can communicate with this community in its language of birth and I understand the nuances in these communities so I can tell them, ‘Look, we need to stop doing things illegally,” said Suarez, who was elected in 2017 to lead the South Florida city.

Suarez’s parents fled what he called an “oppressive communist regime” and came across as many did seeking opportunities in America. Like today’s immigrants, he says he understands their struggles.

“I know they want to do things legally. And we’re going to fix the problem, right, forever,” he said.

Immigration and border security is one of the most pressing issues for Republican voters. A 2022 Gallup poll found 86 percent of Republicans said they were worried about illegal immigration, compared to 38% percent of Democrats, according to The Hill.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez stands beneath the border wall in Pharr, Texas on Aug. 10, 2023. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

A June poll by Gallup found 39% of Americans believe the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border is a “crisis,” with more Republicans now more likely to call it a crisis than in 2019.

The poll was taken after Title 42 — a policy that had since 2020 prevented migrants from claiming asylum at the border in order to stop the spread of coronavirus — was lifted in May.

The Biden administration has now reimplemented Title 8 legal pathways, which require asylum-seekers to schedule asylum interviews via the CBP One app and to claim asylum at the countries they first arrive after leaving their homelands.

But Suarez says Republicans do not trust how Democrats have handled this issue. And he says if a Republican were elected, and specifically a Hispanic, then they would have more gravitas among the GOP party and that could provide meaningful immigration reform.

“Politically, what it says when you have a Hispanic Republican president that will put political capital behind this issue to solve this issue, there is a political statement there that changes the dynamic,” Suarez told Border Report.

If elected, he said he would declare transnational criminal organizations as terrorist organizations, and work with Mexico to stop fentanyl from crossing the border.

Miami Mayor and GOP presidential hopeful nominee Francis Suarez speaks with McAllen City Commissioner Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, far left, in Pharr, Texas, on Aug. 10, 2023. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

After touring the border wall, Suarez met with some local leaders including a McAllen city commissioner, business leaders, a water district manager and school officials.

Julio Cerda, a board trustee for the Sharyland Independent School District, told Suarez that one of their junior high schools that is a mile from the border regularly goes on lockdown due to immigration-related crimes.

“We need help. We definitely need help,” Cerda said.

“Some of the lockdowns that happen in the area are because of chases on immigration by Border Patrol. We’re only a mile away from the river and so they happen often,” Cerda told Border Report after the meeting.

Suarez responded that more resources should go into law enforcement that is patrolling the border, including local agencies, rather than funding 87,000 new IRS agents.

Suarez is backed by the SOS PAC.

He did not raise enough donations to qualify for the first GOP debate, which is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

There are 13 GOP candidates running for the nomination and so far eight party hopefuls have qualified for the debate

According to rules set by the Republican National Committee, in order to qualify, candidates need to have 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors from 20 different states and they must be polling at 1 percent or greater in three national surveys, or 1% in two national polls and 1% in one early state poll from two separate “carve out” states, which include Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and/or South Carolina.

Candidates who have qualified include: Former President Donald Trump; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former Vice President Mike Pence; former Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Candidates have until Aug. 21 to meet the requirements.