News / USA

Texas Border Towns Help Immigrants

FILE - Cloths for detainees are sorted at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, June 18, 2014.
FILE - Cloths for detainees are sorted at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, June 18, 2014.
Greg Flakus

Thousands of immigrants from Central America have crossed over the Mexican border into the U.S. state of Texas in recent months, and federal agents have stepped up efforts to process those with no criminal record and allow them to stay with family members in the United States while awaiting their court date. Local communities are providing these weary and hungry immigrants with humanitarian assistance.

This week the Hidalgo County, Texas Sheriff's Department found the decomposing body of a boy in the scrub brush near the Rio Grande River, which delineates the border with Mexico. 

Using information scribbled on the boy's belt, deputies contacted a man in Guatemala who identified himself as the boy's father. Sheriff Eddie Guerra said he provided information that helped identify the body.

"A part statement was obtained from the presumed father of the deceased male, who provided the specific clothing description," said Guerra.

The dead boy was 11-years-old, according to his birth certificate, but family members say he was 15.

In recent months there has been a surge of immigrants from Central America arriving in south Texas. Federal authorities have detained minors who are not accompanied by a parent, but have processed and released hundreds of people with children to travel to other U.S. locations where they have family members.

Many of them end up at the bus station in the border town of McAllen, Texas, which is struggling to deal with the large influx.

McAllen spokesman Teclo Garcia said local government, nuns, and local volunteers are providing services in the parking lot of the Sacred Heart Catholic church.

"The county has put up some tents and the sisters are all working to make sure people get fed and they are looked after, and the county health folks are doing some screenings and things of that nature, and then they move along and catch their bus and go wherever," said Garcia.

Garcia said the city has spent about $58,000 on this emergency operation, but he said it could end up spending $500,000 dollars by the end of this year if the situation does not improve.

"While we are handling it now, our preference is that the feds (federal government) take responsibility. We did not cause this situation, we just want to treat people humanely. But we wonder and we are concerned about how long this is sustainable. We do not want to spend $500,000 of taxpayer money on this operation annually," said Garcia.

The operation at the church in McAllen and another one that opened a few days ago farther down the river in Brownsville are managed by Catholic Charities, whose representative, Brenda Riojas, said it started with local citizens.

"They noticed that there were people at the bus station arriving who needed help, so on their own, from the trunks of their cars, they were providing assistance and then when the numbers grew too large, the bus station said this is not the space for this," said Riojas.

Riojas said the church shelter provides immigrants with food, a chance to bathe, a bed to sleep on for a few days and other assistance before they join family members, sometimes in far-off places, like New York or California. She said the volunteers also give them something for the road.

"We provide them also with travel packets. We want to make sure that they have diapers for their children, baby food, water," said Riojas.

Some people have decried such assistance as aiding lawbreakers and encouraging more people to cross the border illegally, but Riojas said the church and other charities in south Texas are only providing humanitarian aid for people already here who are in need of help.

Some members of Congress are also critical of the process of releasing undocumented immigrants and have called for returning them quickly to their country of origin in order to discourage others from coming.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs