Mass Migration (from Central America) and our Fed’s Response

June 4th has come and gone.  That was the date that a few of the Honduran women stated as the deadline for a supposed amnesty or program that they believed would allow them to stay in the United States.  I did have a slight battle with technology and my first few interviews and pictures are gone (I was so frustrated!!) but I returned to the downtown Laredo bus station that had housed so many migrants who had been released by ICE on their own recognizance after being detained and processed by Border Patrol.

Those of you on the border know, the mass migration that began to start to trickle and impact the local community started about three weeks ago.  In that time, thousands of migrants from Central America have entered the US.  Normally, we in our border community don’t see much behind the closed doors.  This time, it is different.

As I made mention in my previous post, there were mainly women and children taking up all the seats, some lining up against the wall on the floor.  Because the downtown bus station employees were not as friendly to us distributing items or speaking to people, I was able to interview with three young women from Honduras inside the rest room.  One was breastfeeding so did not speak but the other two shared the following responses to questions:

The chain of events since then has included an interview with Border Patrol Union Local 2455, attending a press conference from the the Laredo Sector Border Patrol which was canceled, writing to Commander Harris for information on how to bridge the agency with local entities, being granted private audience with several Border Patrol officials, Breitbart Texas’ story “Leaked Images Reveal Children Warehoused in Crowded U.S. Cells, Border Patrol Overwhelmed” including photos of the overcrowding, the start of a clothes/toiletries drive and… no significant news of changes about to occur.

The following are some of these interviews:

The Border Patrol Union representative expressed the concerns of the overcrowding situation with relation to the Border Patrol Agents. They have raised a flag of concern because detention centers cannot safely hold those who have been detained. What has surprised me personally, is the silence that has come from the federal government. After sending the following email to Border Patrol:

Thank you, Sara, for letting us know who to contact in DC at this morning’s Border Patrol press conference that resulted in a cancellation. Besides the media, the community was also interested so if you can forward this to Commander Harris, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. VG

Commander Harris,

As someone involved with various non-profits, the concern from the last few days of excess amounts of people released after processing at the local bus stations is still felt. While it seems that the drops at the bus stations are stopping as of today, we imagine that overcrowding still continues. I am asking on behalf of the Holding Institute Community Center, who provided hygiene kits via the Bethany House and offered showers to those interested, how can we best work with families who may have food & basic care needs beyond what Border Patrol is prepared to provide?

In all honesty, the Bethany House soup kitchen was taken by surprise. Pooling resources let some volunteers buy diapers and easy food that can be carried for those waiting hours at the bus station. I understand that it is not the responsibility of Border Patrol to go above and beyond to provide care for detainees about to be released; but, this situation did create a strain on the community’s resources. Any suggestions of how to prepare or updates on the continuation of this unusual migration are most welcome.

Sincerely, (me)

So, the Holding Institute Community Center has begun to collect clothing for children and hygiene products to be given to Border Patrol for detainees being released.  But – let’s think… the resources that are being pooled to assist because of the humanitarian void people are falling into because of the long processing and our federal government’s decisions on how to handle those in detention are going to a massive agency with a multi-billion dollar budget.  Those resources would normally be going to local organizations that we all support – Bethany House, Volunteers Serving the Need, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and many others.  Even though the request has been made via the FACE Coalition, at a Sisters of Mercy discussion on immigration, via Univision & Fox station, etc., the donations collected will be a drop in the bucket of what is needed – most importantly, it will divert the resources needed in Laredo, one of the poorest cities in the US.

When called in response to my email about alerting the community of possible impact, I was given audience at a meeting on June 3, 2014.  I met with Deputy Chief Marcos Garcia, Acting Division Chief of Op Support Enrique Martinez, Division Chief of Operations Mathew Hudak, Acting Patrol Agent in Charge Eugenio Rodriguez, and Acting Special Ops Supervisor of Comms Branch.  The discussion was clear but the expectations from each other were different.  While I made mention of examples of cases like natural disasters where our city has a disaster plan in place for receiving evacuees, they made mention of not knowing who to contact for different services in the community.  I do understand that it is not the responsibility of Border Patrol or ICE to follow anyone being released, there is a humanitarian responsibility to those in their custody; but also, to the community where they work and live along with all of us.  I did state I would pass the word about the immediate needs for children’s clothing, diapers, hygiene items because the overcrowding has brought issues never before anticipated – and I have.

What I still do not understand the stance taken of the agency existing in a bubble, as if it does not affect those in and around them.  One of the questions asked of me is if I would be the point person for efforts; the answer is of course not!  I am simply a community volunteer who is having a hard time with the recent actions in dealing with the Central American mass migration.  Unfortunately, this also points to a deficiency in the Laredo community with our communication amongst nonprofits but at least there are several coalitions where the message about a drive can be disbursed.   Laredo may not have the best leaders, nor the best systems to respond in emergencies but it does have a beautiful community of caring people.  This does not absolve the Department of Homeland Security from the responsibility of communicating with the greater public and its humanitarian responsibility.  When Border Patrol and then ICE decide to release hundreds of people, not everyone had a family member to call to buy their bus ticket to reunite with family.  As the employee at the bus station told us, “I don’t mind selling so many bus tickets since it is good for my employer but our regular schedule means everyone is stuck here until we can find them space on a bus to go.”

The problems are many but unfortunately, it is reluctantly admitted as a problem and only recently because of the push from media and others.

I’m beginning to get a little lengthy here so I close with one final point.  In the several interviews I did, the women with children talked about the end of May, beginning of June deadline for some amnesty program they believed to be going on.  This idea did not come out of everyone but of many.  The question remains, WHAT has caused the sudden mass migration?  Is it a rumor run amok that just became so distorted that people risked life and health and home stability to run to the United States??  If you are conspiracy theorists, maybe you might think it was an idea planted by a nefarious organization meant to intentionally pull Border Patrol resources away from surveillance & deterrent presences to pass more than just human smuggling??  Even now, as I passed by the railroad bridge, only one Border Patrol vehicle was in sight when normally there are three or more.  Maybe, just maybe, it is the mixed messages being sent by our federal government in its decisions for immigration reform that are being twisted and misunderstood and encouraging those on the brink to take the plunge and cross.  What was striking was that those I interviewed did not view their detention & processing as something negative – I honestly believe that some interpreted the action as part of the process to come in to the United States.  As a woman humbly told me, “My kids will automatically be admitted in to the US but I will have to go to court 3 or 4 times before I get my papers to let me stay.  All that we went through will be worth it.”  Strange.  I feel her desire to better her life and know that to make the decision to move from one country to another is not one that is taken lightly; but, I couldn’t say, “You’ve got it wrong” because honestly, I am not so sure she does have it wrong.  I wish her the best and also to the border communities that are impacted by an unprepared system not quite open to working outside of themselves.

Should you want to donate, please drop off any supplies or clothing at the Holding Institute Community Center at 1102 Santa Maria or to any of the Border Patrol Sector offices marked for Processing Center donations.

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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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5 Responses to Mass Migration (from Central America) and our Fed’s Response

  1. JustynJustyn says:

    I have seen numerous articles claim news stations in Central America are helping to fuel the amnesty rumors. Specifically to ‘bring children because they won’t split up families’ was one of the things mentioned. Seems to be backed up by the women you interviewed. :-(. I would not risk my life to come here, and especially not of my child! It is a dangerous journey for an adult, let alone a nursing baby! If this is true that the news stations are helping to cause this, they should be held responsible for any deaths that result! But what I want to know is, WHY would they spread these rumors? What is the point, or the help that these other countries would receive? Are they just trying to get rid of people?! What a mess, and as usual the Feds are not even doing their job! Too worried about spying on regular citizens and Señor Bundy and his cows…and they wonder why so many people don’t trust them in DC? This is a prime example right here.

    I will look to see if I can find any of these news releases and let you know if I find any.

    • a says:

      I’ve read about it too. I can’t find the links either. I read somewhere that not stations but charities and other organizations explained an increase in fear when children became a main target for gang recruitment (and all sorts of atrocities to children were done as display of power and intimidation) this is what causes parents to become desperate enough. They are told about “permits” but don’t really understand that it only means court date paperwork. They are not at all trying to just get rid of people, and are not necessarily wrong about their information ( “permits” ) either because some laws were instated in order to protect children from human trafficking, but it applies to children in that situation or already in this country before 2007 to determine their case for asylum or deportation which is a long process times thousands of cases. The process for dealing with child migrants was set by Congress under a 2002 law then in 2008 was modified with some additional protections. Yes this made asylum applications multiply but it happened not only in the States, asylum seekers went everywhere north of their countries, the ultimate root is fear and fleeing from violence caused by those recruiting from organized crime. The ultimate solution is the same as when there is lack of interest from consumers for any kind of product or service then a mega company shuts down. In this supply/demand case the product would be drugs, guns, and human trafficking. As we can see there is too much to address in this subject I just wish I could stop seeing the general heartless comments (that I’ve seen in OTHER posts around the country) and stop being so Nazi-blind or government-stubborn and concentrate on priorities and humanitarian solutions as the Migrant Relief program is doing right now. SO.. same here: thank you for updates and all that you are doing!

  2. Justyn says:

    Oops, I also forgot to say Thank you for the update and all that you are doing!

  3. Lisa Chappa says:

    I deeply appreciate your reporting. What a sad situation. Thank you to all of the people who are working to make things as humane as possible for these poor women and children.

  4. Victoria says:

    The June 4th date is so strange, they must have read it somewhere but how, it coincides with the last day the old form would be used for DACA, consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. As of June 5th a new application needs to be filed according to many websites from immigration lawyers plus this: http://www.uscis.gov/news/secretary-johnson-announces-process-daca-renewal

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