Refugees in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley
It was a cold December morning and having arrived in downtown Mcallen, Texas to drop off my friend at the local greyhound station; I was stunned by what I encountered. The air was crisp and the weather had just dipped below 40 degrees forcing everyone into their makeshift winter coats. Caddy corner across the bus station stood a former nightclub now transformed into the Humanitarian Respite Center. The windows blacked out from its club days and giant double doors now open for business. As I placed quarters in my parking meter, extending my time, a non-descript white bus parked and let out a flood of immigrants, mostly children.
According to Sandra Sanchez in Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen Has Helped 150,000 Migrants since 2014, “We give milk and Pampers and hygiene items from the bar, Sister Norma Joked as she gave the Border Report a tour of the crowded facility. The City of McAllen helped the nonprofit to secure the location and even helped clean it up and transform it for them”. As the doors flapped open, I was able to get a glimpse of the inside. There were endless rows of white banquet tables, chairs and boxes of unopened Lays chips, a mountain of bottled waters, and what looked like hygiene kits to me. At this point, I was getting curious, so I decided to take a closer look. Having just emptied, the bus made way for two more busses of immigrants filled to the max.
I had always known of the flood of immigrants coming into the RGV but seeing it first hand was another thing. Rosa Flores in Border Authorities Are Encountering up to 1,200 Migrants a Day in South Texas, Source Says that “between 900 and 1200 migrants daily (arrived) during the past two weeks. Federal agencies in the Rio Grande Valley are also receiving at least 200 additional migrants who are arriving by plane or by bus from other border patrol sectors”. The idea that other areas were sending more migrants to are area was quite a shock to me. I could easily understand why the Humanitarian Respite Center was so busy and from the looks of it, overwhelmed at the volume of people needing assistance.
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After seeing my friend off to his bus, I quickly returned outside the bus station and visited the SGS World across the Respite Center. Inside I stocked up on bottled waters, socks, plain t-shirts, and anything I could think of that might be of use to recent migrants. I know it wasn’t a lot, but I spent what I could and brought it across the street. Seeing the need up close and personal really made an impact on me and forced me to see the issues in our community come to life.
Flores mentions that “federal authorities are dropping off between 350 and 350 migrants daily at the McAllen respite center” and the number is expected to increase over the coming months. It is this immediacy and urgency that fills me as I write about this issue. The Rio Grande Valley has always been a welcoming home to many and no matter where you side on the issue of immigration, we all can agree that if we can help others in need, then we should. For more information on donating or providing any type of assistance please visit https://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/respitecenter/history.aspx for more information. I have provided the links below for your reference.
Flores, Rosa. “Border Authorities Are Encountering up to 1,200 Migrants a Day in South Texas, Source Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 18 Dec. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/18/us/texas-border-migrants-rio-grande-valley/index.html.
Sanchez, Sandra. “Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen Has Helped 150,000 Migrants since 2014.” BorderReport, BorderReport, 16 July 2019, https://www.borderreport.com/regions/texas/humanitarian-respite-center-in-mcallen-has-helped-150000-migrants-since-2014/.