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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs