As the Biden administration prepare to lift Covid restrictions on people crossing the border on May 23local officials from What was once one of the busiest crossings in history are sounding the alarm that they will need Washington to introduce a bill for the expected record increase in migration through the US-Mexico border.
“Logistically, it would be a nightmare,” said Mayor Javier Villalobos of McAllen, Texas, the largest city in the region that is often the epicenter of the Southwest, Rio Grande Valley border crossings. Most of the immigrants caught in the Rio Grande Valley who were allowed into the US to seek asylum go through McAllen to board buses or flights to the cities where they will bring their cases first. court. However, under Covid restrictions known as Title 42, less than half made it to McAllen, with the majority being shipped back to Mexico at the border.
In March, an average of more than 7,000 migrants crossed the border every day, the total number of people crossing the border was 220,000, the most in more than two decades. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that as Title 42 grows, those numbers could rise to 12,000 to 18,000 passersby per day.
About 170,000 are waiting in camps in Mexico, where they live in dire conditions after being denied entry to the United States because of Title 42.
He said Villalobos and his staff have been in contact with the White House about plans to provide food, transportation and shelter for what could be thousands of migrants who pass through the area each day.
Villalobos’ message is simple: “If they need our help, we need funding. We are not in the immigration business. We do not fund immigration.”
Villalobos and McAllen’s assistant city manager, Jeff Johnston, say they’ve received about $30 million from the federal government in the past year and they’ll need more to be ready to deal with the incoming cash flows. . The Department of Homeland Security confirmed the amount, and a spokesperson said the agency “appreciates the partnerships of communities along the Southwest border and engages regularly with elected officials, local leaders and NGOs”.
In recent calls with Biden management staff, McAllen officials requested additional funding. They said, so far, they have not been guaranteed. They say most promises of funding come monthly.
McAllen was granted $1.65 million by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to handle the migration in April, according to the mayor’s office, but it said it needed an additional amount of money to plan.
“We believe the federal government should address the problem that they are trying to get immigrants where they need to go,” Johnston said. “We are anxiously awaiting their final resolution to all of this.”
Last summer, officials in Hidalgo County, where McAllen is headquartered, opened their own site to take migrants to Mission City’s Anzalduas Park, where people crossing the border can be tested for Covid and withheld, if they were positive, before being shipped locally. shelter. Officials had planned to close it soon, but with the recent announcement that Title 42 would be lifted next month, they decided to keep it open. They say they will need more money to operate a testing and quarantine site on such a large scale.
According to agency data, excluding funds awarded to McAllen, agencies and nonprofits in Hidalgo County received $1 million from DHS.
A spokesman said DHS has “put in place a comprehensive, government-wide plan to manage any potential increase in the number of migrants encountered at our border, and DHS has established setting up a Southwest Border Coordination Center to implement those plans. We are increasing our capacity to process new arrivals, evaluate asylum claims, and rapidly remove those We will increase personnel and resources as needed and have repositioned more than 600 law enforcement officers to the border.”
“[We] The spokesperson said it will continue to engage regularly with all stakeholders to provide updates and listen to their feedback.
‘A safe and orderly process’
Perhaps the most important NGO in the region is Catholic Charities. Every day, the Catholic Charities’ shelter in McAllen receives trucks and buses of newly arrived immigrants, transported directly from Customs and Border Protection. From there, they have the opportunity to shower and receive meals, as well as help navigate their journey to their final destination in the US, where they will bring their cases before immigration judges.
For that reason, anyone who wants to measure the heat of migration in the Rio Grande Valley looks to Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Catholic Charities shelter in McAllen.
Her shelter is currently mostly families with children under 7 years of age, as they are more likely to be allowed into the US under current Covid restrictions. But when Title 42 lifts, she said, she’ll see a lot more migrants.
The Catholic charity has campaigned for Title 42’s removal, and Pimentel remains confident her shelter can take in the increased numbers.
“I believe we will be able to manage the number of people that can be released to us by the Border Patrol,” she said. “I appreciate the support I have received from the Border Patrol, the federal government, and the city government. We want to make sure we have a safe and orderly process.”