With thousands of Latin American migrants continuing to make their way across the border, aid groups and border agents are worried that their numbers will swell to crisis levels not seen since 2019, when more than 800,000 people were apprehended by Border Patrol agents.
“We believe the numbers will certainly increase to 2019 levels,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, a city near the Mexican border.
The organization runs a respite center where newly arrived migrants can get a meal, clean clothes and arrange travel to other parts of the US where they have family. Pimentel told The Post her organization is processing more than 500 people a day. At the height of the border crisis in 2019, Pimentel’s organization was helping more than 1,000 migrants a day, she said.
“There are efforts on the part of the administration to fix root causes because most people want to stay in their own countries,” she said. “But until we fix that, people will just keep coming.”
According to Pimentel, the migrants who are now crossing the border are coming in family groups with children under six, which allows them to seek asylum in the U.S. Many are escaping gang violence and devastation from several hurricanes in Central America, she told The Post.
Pimentel said her group has also also helped thousands of migrants who have been waiting for nearly two years in make-shift camps on the Mexican side of the border. They are finally being allowed into the country by the Biden administration, she said.
The recent surge is forcing government agencies such as US Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to seek reinforcements. Michael Meade, the acting assistant director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement called for the “immediate” deployment of volunteers in a memo to staff on Thursday, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
In Texas alone, U.S. officials are processing hundreds of migrants per day.
“U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley are commonly encountering families and unaccompanied alien children being smuggled into the country in groups of more than 100,” according to a US Customs and Border Protection statement issued Friday.
On Tuesday, Border Patrol apprehended 100 illegal aliens in La Grulla Texas that included nine migrants from Romania and two Cubans. On Wednesday agents apprehended 102 near La Joya Texas. There are already more than 3,500 children stranded in detention centers near the Mexican border, and hundreds more on the Mexican side.
“Even with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, human smugglers continue to try these brazen attempts with zero regard for the lives they endanger,” the statement said.
The numbers are so overwhelming that some children are being forced to sleep on the floors of detention centers in Texas. The Biden administration said Friday that they do not have the capacity to add more beds as more than 3,500 unaccompanied children and teens crossed the southern border last week, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.
Across the border from McAllen, in Reynosa more than 700 children have been detained by Mexican authorities as they attempted to make their way to the US in order to join their relatives, according to a report in the Washington Post.