More Families Arriving at McAllen Shelter

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MCALLEN – More families and children are crossing the border every day.

The Sacred Heart Church in McAllen opened their doors to 60 people on Tuesday.

Sister Norma Pimentel, director of Catholic Charities, said the last group of that size came long ago. The shelter is starting to feel an impact.

“We are seeing a greater increase of families arriving to Sacred Heart. Yesterday was one of those days,” Pimentel said.

She said they try to provide comfort, clean clothes and a place to shower. She said the last time she noticed similar numbers was back in 2014. That year the border saw record numbers of Central Americans.

Pimentel said two years ago the center was used to seeing hundreds of people each day. It’s different now.

“Border Patrol has a different set up and process, and so now they are able to actually send some of the families to detention centers, which we didn’t have in 2014. And so we were getting all of the families that were being released, were being dropped off at the bus station,” Pimentel said.

Agent Chris Cabrera, with the National Border Patrol Council, said he is hoping the borders do not see a second major surge.

“We are ramping up; it’s starting to look like 2014. Hopefully, we don’t get to that point but it’s looking to be a busy year,” Cabrera said.

He said many factors are pushing people to make the journey.

“With the political climate right now, the fact that a lot of things may be changing, and people know right now that getting over here is good to do. I think we may have a chance, unfortunately we may break that record,” Cabrera said.

He said he believes if the same number of people come, holding facilities could become dangerous.

“Once it gets crowded in there… it could be an officer safety issue for our agents dealing with so many people in a confined space,” he said.

Border Patrol statistics for the 2016 fiscal year reveal the number of family unit apprehensions have already surpassed those who came during the surge.

Pimentel said the center is getting ready to receive even larger groups of women and children over the next couple of days.

Border Patrol said the number of people being held at holding units is impossible to track. They said women and children are constantly being transported from one unit to another.

Agents said the Border Patrol is apprehending an average of 450 people per day; that’s a 25 percent increase from 2015.

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