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.