Haitians make up majority of asylum seekers released at McAllen Migrant Center
The Humanitarian Respite Center has had a facelift
McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) – Haitian asylum seekers now make up the majority of migrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, the center’s director told Border Report.
This is a big change from previous years, when the facility traditionally helped asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, who had been released by the Department of Homeland Security.
During a recent tour of the facility, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said most of the migrants at the downtown facility are from the Caribbean nation.
Since September, Haitian asylum seekers had traveled across the United States via Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas, but the recent surge in numbers here in the Rio Grande Valley is something new for migrant advocates.
Pimentel even joked that she might have to start learning Creole.
Aside from new faces at the center, the facility has also had a facelift recently.
Fresh white and colored paint now covers the walls and has given it a much brighter feel.
A newly donated portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe hangs on a wall near the entrance, illuminated by lights.
Pimentel says the paint is perfect and looks like it was made for this place.
This is the fourth location of the respite center which began in the communion hall of a nearby Catholic church. This current location used to be a nightclub and had black walls and a very dark atmosphere.
Pimentel says the renovations were meant to give it a cleaner look.
They were also able to complete the renovations recently as there has been a drop in the number of migrants coming to the facility. Currently, they have 350 to 400 a day. This is a big drop from the thousand migrants who arrived last summer.
But as the Biden administration prepares to rescind Title 42 at the end of the month, Pimentel says they are preparing to eventually receive more people.
“We are prepared with the help of the community because we really rely 100% on the support of the community and we are here to help families, people who need help. So regardless of the policy – whether they should stay or not – I think the most important thing is that we treat them with dignity and respect and that’s what we do,” Pimentel said.
Border Report has learned that thousands of Haitians are among the asylum seekers waiting south of the Rio Grande in the Mexican border town of Reynosa.
DHS officials have predicted that more than 18,000 migrants a day could try to cross if Title 42 is lifted on May 23, as the Biden administration wants.
But there are several legal challenges to the rollback, and Pimentel, along with other migrant advocates, don’t believe it will happen by that date.
Either way, she said the facility would be ready for them. Several parishes in the Rio Grande Valley region are also willing to feed and host migrants for overnight stays if the numbers exceed what the center can handle.
“We try to get families to get here within 24 hours. Help them to contact their families so that they can bring their families to buy their bus tickets and then they can wait for their confirmation on that transport ticket and meanwhile rest here and eat and change clothes into something clean and move on. This is our goal. And so no matter how many people come in, we have the capacity because we are trained. We know how to help families and make sure they get what they need,” Pimentel said.