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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs