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 has traditionally helped asylum seekers mostly from Central America who were 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 been trekking in the U.S. through Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas, but the recent increase in numbers here in the Rio Grande Valley is something new to migrant advocates.
Pimentel even joked that she might have to start learning Creole.
Aside from new faces at the center, the facility also has had a recent makeover.
Fresh white and colorful paint now covers the walls and has given it a much brighter atmosphere.
A newly donated portrait of the Virgin de Guadalupe hangs on one wall near the entrance, illuminated by lights.
Pimentel says the painting is perfect and appears to be made for that spot.
This is the fourth location for the Respite Center which began in the fellowship 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 to give it a cleaner appearance.
They also were able to complete the renovations recently as there has been a dip in the number of migrants coming to the facility. Currently, they have 350 to 400 per day. That’s a big drop from the thousand-plus migrants who were coming last summer.
But as the Biden administration prepares to roll back Title 42 at the end of the month, Pimentel says they are gearing up to possibly receive more people.
“We’re prepared with the help of the community because we really totally rely 100% on the community’s support and we’re here to help families, people who need help. So no matter what the policy is – whether they should stay or not – I think the most important thing is 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 asylum-seekers waiting south of the Rio Grande in the Mexican border town of Reynosa.
DHS officials have predicted that upwards of 18,000 migrants per day could try to cross if Title 42 is lifted on May 23, as the Biden administration wants.
But there are several court challenges to the rollback, and Pimentel, along with other migrant advocates do not believe it will happen on that date.
Regardless, she said the facility will be ready for them. Several area parishes in the Rio Grande Valley are also willing to feed and take in migrants for overnight stays should the numbers exceed what the center can handle.
“We try to keep it within 24 hours that families arrive here. Assist them to contact their families so that they can get their families to purchase their bus tickets and they can then wait for their confirmation on that transportation ticket and in the meantime rest here and eat and change clothing into something clean and move on. That’s our goal. And so no matter how many people arrive we have the capacity because we are trained. We know how to help the families and make sure they get what they need,” Pimentel said.