McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A tent encampment with over 700 asylum-seekers in the dangerous border city of Reynosa, Mexico, soon will be relocated to a migrant shelter about a mile away.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told Border Report on Monday that the tent encampment will move from the Plaza de la República in downtown Reynosa to the outside of the nonprofit Senda de Vida faith-based migrant center, where amenities, like showers and bathrooms, will be available for the migrants.
The move date will depend upon how fast the new location can be made ready for their arrival.
“Right now they are finishing the wall, putting in restrooms, showers and an area for water,” Pimentel said. “Once it is finished the families will be transferred.”
The current tent encampment sprung up after President Joe Biden took office and is located just blocks from the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge in McAllen, Texas. Migrants, most from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have been waiting in the plaza in the hopes of crossing into the United States and legally claiming asylum.
But the number of families and children admitted into South Texas has dropped off in the past weeks, as Title 42 travel restrictions remain due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that has sent more migrants back over the Rio Grande — many ending up in this sprawling tent encampment.
After the Biden administration took office, Pimentel was the point person between Mexican and U.S. officials to help nearly a thousand asylum-seekers, who had been placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols program under the Trump administration, legally cross from the border city of Matamoros, Mexico, into the United States.
Now she is negotiating with officials to help make life more comfortable for hundreds of families who are living about 60 miles west in crime-ridden Reynosa.
The conditions in the Reynosa tent encampment, some say, are worse than in Matamoros due to violent crimes reported in the border town.
The U.S. State Department warns Americans not to travel to Reynosa, which is within the border state of Tamaulipas, due to “gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault.”
The area where the migrants currently are living is cramped, hot, lacks resources and was recently struck by heavy rains and high winds.
Felicia Rangel-Samponaro is the co-director of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers whose organization has been going daily from South Texas to earmark and help vulnerable migrant families in the Reynosa camp, like a disabled migrant girl with Spina Bifida who last week was allowed to legally cross with the help of a lawyer.
That family is among dozens that the Sidewalk School has helped get off the crowded plaza and into apartments throughout Reynosa. But as more families arrive and the numbers continue to swell, they cannot afford to put everyone up in apartments.
Pimentel said they are trying to help the migrants to live in more dignified conditions and to meet their needs but still work within international laws.
On Monday, the organization helped to bring to the camp five doctors — three physicians and two dentists — who screened migrants for health conditions. They will also treat people at the new location outside the Senda Vida shelter.
Title 42 travel restrictions imposed during the Trump administration remain between the United States, Mexico and Canada, preventing land travel between the countries. This also has prevented migrants from being allowed to claim asylum in the United States, although thousands of families and unaccompanied minors have been permitted into the country since January.
The Title 42 travel restrictions are set to expire on Friday, and if they are not renewed that could change how U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security officials allow asylum-seekers into the United States.