Cuellar: Port of entry in Brownsville to begin processing up to 100 asylum seekers a day
Asylum-seekers who have been waiting in Mexico due to former President Donald Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' program will soon be allowed into three ports of entry in the U.S. — and one of them is right here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Starting next Friday, the port of entry in Brownsville is expected to begin processing up to 100 migrants a day.
At a press conference Friday, Congressman Henry Cuellar said there are roughly 25,000 migrants with active cases. He also talked about how the process will work in regards to COVID-19.
"They'll have a staging area, they'll do medical screening, make sure that there are negative,” Cuellar said. “If they're positive, they'll have to wait in Mexico before they come in."
In all, three ports of entry will be involved in the re-processing - one in California, one in El Paso, and the third in Brownsville, Cuellar said. Each is expected to handle about 100 people a day.
"They'll be taking only 100 people a day, which is very manageable,” said Sister Norma Pimentel with the Catholic Charities Respite Center. “Right before MPP went into effect, we were seeing very high numbers, almost a thousand a day."
Sister Norma Pimentel says the city of Brownsville will provide COVID-19 testing for inside the shelters, as well.
"If they come out positive, we can put them in a hotel for isolation and do not release them until they're negative,” Pimentel said.
Catholic Charities will be one of the nonprofits helping with shelters. The cost for testing and isolating will be reimbursed by the emergency food and shelter grant, and all spending will be overseen by FEMA, and will only go to local food and shelter boards.
Senior Asylum Officer Kathryn Hampton with Physicians for Human Rights says there's no need to worry about asylum seekers posing a risk for COVID-19.
"A lot of it is open air," Hampton said. "It's not necessarily a place where you can't cross safely if everyone is wearing masks, and you have hand sanitizer and you're spacing out the lines."
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