Crazy overcrowding over at Border Patrol and yet…

I’m tired.  As I sit here wondering when Bluehost will be done with my blog migration, I realize that I am thinking of such a minor insignificant nothing.  So yes, I am tired from the minor worries but I’m also physically tired from having gone out to distribute food last night and out again tonight.

Most importantly, I am tired of our broken systems.  Last night (Wednesday), a frustrated bus station worker called Bethany House (soup kitchen) to report a higher than usual number of people at the station.  She described the the uniform of the driver, the decals on the bus that dropped off about 50 people at the station.  From there, I was called to ask my sources if I knew what was going on because that was highly unusual.  So I called around and was told by one detention center that shouldn’t be happening that the usual release happens at the border for those returning or may happen at a bus station at request for someone OR’d but not a whole bus load.  Everyone  I spoke to when looking for answers said “that sounds strange” or “that is not protocol” or the like.  What was a fact was that now there were about 50 people at a bus station.

My friend, who first went with Bethany House to pass out diapers and some supplies to the one station in the North, remained concerned.  At 11pm, I picked up another friend and went to buy bags of oranges, apples and granola bars – food that could be stored for later consumption.  When we got to the bus station, tired looking people just stared at our bags and pretty soon, the kids were gathered around us.  We spoke with a few who said they had not eaten since sunrise.  Even though we were systematically giving out the food, the fruit went fast.  There is no denying that they were hungry.  The majority seemed to be from Honduras, some San Salvador and a few from Guatemala.  What was most striking was that almost all were women with children.

So, who were they?  Immigrants who had crossed in the Valley of Texas, detained and then brought to Laredo.  Apparently the overcrowding is so severe in detention areas, the subcontractor who holds them, released them with their OR (own recognizance) paperwork.  While it is not uncommon for a few to be released in this way, what is different is how this is now a mass dumping at the bus stations that started this week.  There was no warning – not to the bus stations, not to those who serve the hungry or care about humane treatment.  They were released but had no resources, little (if any) food, little (if any) hygiene products, little (if any) information.

Not only those 50 but in talking to the bus station workers, they said that another busload had been taken to a bus station downtown.  The three of us hopped in and went to buy out the local HEB of their apples, oranges and granola bars.  At the downtown station, we again saw almost all women with many children.  Their destinations were as varied as the first group – Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky.  Again, almost all were from Central American countries.  We heard quite a few thank yous and god will bless you but the core of the problem is not just filling a belly with a one time snack.  What is going on?  Why the mass migration?  Or is it really Border Patrol changing policies or procedures? Or is it the subcontractor?  What has changed and how is our border protection system resolving problems created by those changes?  Local media covered the story from the viewpoint of the Border Patrol Union who is complaining of the overcrowding and inhumane standards it is creating.  LareDOS newspaper (May 2014, page 14), KGNS, KGNS 2, and Univision covered some of the story.

It isn’t just Laredo.  This is a link to a story out of Tucson via the Arizona Daily Star.  In the last two days, they have had the same scenario as Laredo at their bus station.  They state:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona is processing 400 people, mostly families coming from Central America and Mexico who were apprehended in South Texas and flown here over the weekend, officials said. To process the surge of crossers from Texas, the Border Patrol is turning to all available resources at its disposal, said Daniel Tirado , Border Patrol spokesman for the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

Regardless of your political bent, regardless of how you feel about immigration (legal or otherwise), regardless of the manner of entry to the country, people have a right to at least food.  That had been the concern of the bus station worker.  But today was another day.  We thought maybe it was a fluke but Bethany House did a check and again, more people were dropped off by the busload.  At least today, the nonprofit soup kitchen was able to prepare for the extra mouths to feed.  I did a visit around 11:30pm.  I spoke with a few of the women camping out at the bus station.  I do have some audio that I will upload in a follow-up post and some photos of the crowded station.  Normally, at midnight, the station only has a handful of people.  Tonight, there were people lying all over the floors, outside on the benches and, of course, in the seats.  The place was abuzz with activity.  I was able to interview Mari and Velma, two young women from Honduras, about why they decided to come now.  Management did not seem too pleased with my presence.  When my friend and I returned with bags of food for a family who had missed the Bethany House food distribution, my friend was shoved by the security man from the station as he intended to take his camera.  Those spending the night on the floors were willing to talk to us but management had other ideas.  More about the interview tomorrow along with an additional interview from the spokesperson for the Border Patrol Union in Laredo.

People’s lives are fascinating but in that fascination, humanity must come first (according to me).  Border Patrol has scheduled a press conference at 10am to respond to the situation.  I can’t wait to hear some of the solutions.  From the outside, it looks like our borders have become porous in such an unintended way – and could this be one of the causes of the increase in migration?  Or is something beyond the surface picture taking place?  For today, may the families and children get some rest as they wait for the ironically named AMERICANOS buses to take them to their new destinations while they wait for their court dates.  What a system we have.

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About Que Fregados

Que Fregados is a quirky look at little things that strike us funny in Laredo and the unique Latino culture. Suggestions and comments are welcome. You can also email to quefregados@gmail.com.
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9 Responses to Crazy overcrowding over at Border Patrol and yet…

  1. Que Fregados- Thank you for telling the story that we would not have heard. And, thank you for feeding people who are hungry. I’m hoping that this is a glitch in the system that can be repaired…

  2. Yes, thank you for opening our eyes to this dilemma. I am looking forward to hearing from authorities on the solution, even if it be short term.

  3. Justyn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and God bless you for providing food for those people!
    As for why they are coming? It’s because the US is talking about possible amnesty. Even Boehner talked about it the other week. People in these other countries pay attention to the US and what is happening. Especially, if they already have family members here in the US. The government should have been ready for this as they know these talks will always persuade people to try to get here, at any cost, even death. They have known there would be a surge, they are just woefully unprepared, unsurprisingly.
    While I am firmly on the ‘they should be flown HOME when caught and the bill sent to the home country’ side, I also can not stand to see our government agencies treating people this way. Much less women and children. It is unacceptable and no better than the other countries we condemn for such actions against the poor and most vulnerable in this world. Shame on the contractors or BP for simply dropping people off in strange cities, without food, instructions etc. Perhaps, if we didn’t pay our members of congress and higher government officials MILLIONS-BILLIONS of dollars every year we could allocate that to border protection, and at the same time provide food and a SAFE pathway home for people caught. Not shuttling and bussing them all over the country, and then expecting them to show up for court dates half way across the country! That’s the most idiotic thing I have ever heard, but again unsurprising. My father worked for the DoD for nearly 40 years. Nothing the GOV does makes any sense.
    Granted, our system far surpasses Mexico’s southern border system and most others around the world, but we should still hold certain standards. Great, the people caught aren’t beaten or end up in human trafficking rings or horribly violent prisons like in other countries – but we hold our country to higher standards and it is not right to starve people who just possibly walked half a continent to get here. We all know people are much easier to work and reason with when they are not hungry…and how dare they not feed children for well over 12 hours! Shameful at best, how much can candy bars or bulk fruit and juice cost?! Hell, I’m sure they could even get that stuff donated from large companies if they did it all across the agency. But that would be too much red tape for ICE so no one will take the initiative to do what’s right.
    My guess as for why it is mostly women and children, is I’m sure most of the men are deemed more dangerous and remain detained. Women and children usually migrate to escape poverty or to join up with other family members already here – single men usually tend to be either coyotes, drug runners or caught up in something bad – and men with families are much more willing to be combative when caught because they have an added pressure placed on them to get here and succeed to send money home.
    Hopefully this will not be a continuing trend, but please keep people informed! Sorry for such a long reply, but this made me so mad. I can’t believe you stayed to ‘cool’ when hearing what had happened!

    • Que Fregados says:

      Thanks, Justyn. Just a clarification, Border Patrol does provide some food but because there are so so so many, processing is taking much longer than usual and then being released where they have no food.

      By the way, I just came back from the Border Patrol offices where a press conference had been scheduled with Commander Harris. The PIOs had packets ready for media and comments were ready when it was announced that they had received a directive to not make any statements and cancel. Contacts were provided for DC personnel. The cone of silence has now fallen. Something ugly is going on.

  4. Bibi Garza-Gongora says:

    Que Fregados – thank you. You are an angel walking among us. As you mentioned, “regardless of your political bent” , we must not turn a blind eye to the plight of our fellow human beings. What is disturbing is the fact that security and management are hindering help to these poor women and children. Bless you!

    • Que Fregados says:

      Definitely not me. I just wrote this post but what is not heard of are the Border Patrol agents who are also buying diapers and supplies. Bethany House who has done so much to provide food once they knew this was happening and the Holding Institute that has prepared hygiene kits and is about to open doors for showers for those who want to walk over. As organized citizens, we can help alleviate people’s discomfort.

  5. maritza b. says:

    Just a few days ago I had a random conversation with a LPD officer who told me there are lots of migrant workers coming to the US with a special permit to work in the fields. I didn’t source check but it explained, at the moment, the influx of people in the Laredo downtown area (I work across the street from a couple of bus stations). Thanks for your account on things. I didn’t realize how bad things were getting.

  6. Poncho1950 says:

    The economy improving here and worsening or stagnant conditions in home countries would be the most likely explanation for increased numbers of immigrants, but I don’t know whether the Border Patrol may simply be catching more people for some reason or another. I doubt that the idea of amnesty would draw them, as amnesty, such as the one under Reagan’s watch, is given to those who have evidence of extended residence in this country.

  7. Lisa Chappa says:

    Thank you for sharing this important information in a way that it would not be shared otherwise. I wish I were there to help too. Please keep us informed.

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