El Paso Shelters House Overflow Of Immigrant Families

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
June 09, 2014
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Ruben Garcia (center) executive director at Annunciation House, a local shelter in El Paso, addresses the media Monday about receiving dozens of immigrant families primarily from Central America.

Community organizations in El Paso, Texas, are making up for a critical shortage of space at immigrant detention facilities nationwide.

Churches and shelters in El Paso expect to house dozens of immigrant families in the coming days. The U.S. Border Patrol transferred more than 200 migrants to El Paso over the weekend. The immigrants were detained by Border Patrol primarily in South Texas, where apprehensions have risen 74 percent since last year.

"The transfers are being done to help facilitate the flow and manage the workload," said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  "The facilities in the Rio Grande Valley do not have the equipment or resources to manage this significant surge in migrant crossings."

Migrant families, mostly single mothers and children from Central America, began arriving in El Paso shelters Sunday night. Most had already spent four to five days in federal custody, said Taylor Levy of Annunciation House in El Paso.

"They haven't had adequate food, they've been sleeping on the floor, they haven't been able to bathe," Levy said.
Customs and Border Protection is processing the immigrants, which includes taking biometric information, and releasing some of them to the shelters. The shelters then help the migrants find transportation to reunite with family members already in the United States.

"They're going to Miami, New York, California, other places in Texas," Levy said.

In most cases, those family members wire money to help pay for the cost of transportation, Levy said. The executive director of Annunciation House in El Paso said the shelter has not received any financial support from CBP to assist with housing the families.

The immigrants are still subject to deportation and are instructed by federal agents to report to a local ICE office once they reach their final destination.