Immigrants Still Surging into Texas Shelters

Julian Aguilar, Tuscon Sentinel, December 24, 2014

The media tent that once stood in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church is gone, as are the television crews and reporters who descended this summer when the flow of Central American immigrants illegally crossing the Texas border was major news.

But after a brief lull, the surge of undocumented families passing through a temporary shelter set up by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley seems to be rising again. The spotlight may have turned away, but if the sense of crisis is gone, the people have not stopped coming.

“The numbers increased a lot this past month, almost to 100 every day [last week],” said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. “We have seen some that have already been caught and tried again. They have hope that they have a chance at a better life here.”

After Christmas, she said, the charity will begin searching for a facility to turn what began as a temporary shelter into a permanent offering.

Pimentel oversees the volunteer effort providing short-term shelter to some of the thousands of women and children who have trekked to Texas from Central America. About 52,300 families surrendered to the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley during the 2014 fiscal year, an increase of more than 500 percent over 2013. About 50,000 unaccompanied children were caught or surrendered to border agents in the Valley in fiscal year 2014.

The number of unaccompanied minors apprehended, or who have surrendered, has gone down from about 5,460 in October and November of 2013 to about 3,220 during the same months this year. But the number of parents with one or more minor children has stayed about the same: 3,430 in October and November of last year compared with 3,360 this year.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon,” Pimentel said. “[The Border Patrol] considered the fact that we’re here and we’re prepared to receive them.”

With so many arrivals, the Border Patrol releases most families to the church shelter with orders for them to appear before an immigration judge in whatever city they reach. {snip}


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