Border agents in McAllen, Texas, are currently grappling with the overwhelming wave of migrants seeking a better life across the border in the United States. As a result, they have been forced to transform a public park into a migrant tent community to accommodate nearly 1,000 migrants arriving from various Central American countries. With the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reporting approximately 11,026 migrants deposited in McAllen last week – a record-breaking number – the situation has become critical.
The staggering count of 212,672 migrants crossing into the United States in July highlights the first time in twenty-one years that more than 200,000 people have crossed into America within a month. This alarming milestone demands immediate attention and action from our government.
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos issued a disaster declaration in early August 2021 as a response to the massive influx of migrants. Local officials are struggling to manage the situation as people attempt to cross into America from their home countries, which offer little opportunity for their well-being or success. Mayor Villalobos is unsure how the situation became so dire so suddenly, and it seems to have escalated rapidly.
Mayor Villalobos noted, “The numbers went from 500 to 600 a day. Soon afterward, 1,000 a day. And then an excess of 1,500.”
The CBP agents have established a quarantine camp in Anzalduas Park to process migrants and test them for COVID-19. While they wait for the test results, migrants are housed in open-air tents.
The city of McAllen is facing a population crisis and lacks adequate housing for incoming migrants. Approximately one thousand migrants have been placed in temporary housing, such as churches and private buildings owned by various charities. Hotel rooms are also being utilized to accommodate migrants with nowhere else to go.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, expressed her concern, saying:
“I did not have enough rooms to place new families in isolation. So that’s when we said to Mayor Villalobos that we have a problem here. I don’t think by tomorrow I’m going to be able to contain this within our respite center. So I need help.”
Additionally, during that time Texas is battling a devastating surge of COVID-19 cases. Intensive care units at dozens of the state’s hospitals have reached capacity, and the situation is expected to worsen as people stop wearing masks per the governor’s mandate.
In McAllen, the problem will likely deteriorate before it improves – unless the government intervenes and provides assistance.
Mayor Villalobos initially did not view the situation as problematic because it appeared to be under control. He said, “So I saw no correlation between the increase in COVID within our community and the immigrants because they were isolated.”
The overwhelming influx of migrants in McAllen highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive and effective immigration policy. The current system is clearly inadequate in addressing the challenges posed by such a significant number of people seeking refuge in the United States.
It is crucial that we come together as a nation to find a sustainable solution to this humanitarian crisis. This includes providing adequate resources and support to border patrol agents, investing in temporary housing for migrants, and implementing a fair and efficient immigration process.
The situation in McAllen serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of inaction. We must address the root causes of this crisis and work together to create a future where migrants can safely and legally seek a better life in the United States.
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