EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The pastor of Sacred Heart Church is anticipating more migrants to arrive outside the church as Title 42 is expected to be lifted on Thursday, May 11.

“It’s going to be very painful to see so many people outside that we cannot care for,” said Pastor Rafael Garcia of Sacred Heart Church in South El Paso.

People continue to show up outside of the church as the City of El Paso has estimated that there are 1,800 migrants Downtown.

However, inside the church, there is only a capacity of 120 with a priority on women and children.

Garcia says in many cases, the father of the family volunteers to stay outside to make more room for women and children.

“In general, I find that the population outside, which is now mainly men, understand that we cannot help everyone and it’s very humbling to me. They’re very gracious. they say hello and ‘thank you, father,'” said Garcia.

A woman from Venezuela, Carolina Mirabal Rodriguez, is staying inside the church with her five children ages 2 to 15. She explained that she turned herself in to immigration officials knowing there was a risk of being expelled.

Under Title 42, a public health order, border agents have the authority to expel any migrant who enters the country between ports of entry. The Trump administration implemented Title 42 as a way to stop the cross-border spread of COVID-19.

Carolina Mirabal Rodriguez and her children. (Ruben Espinoza/KTSM 9 News)

“We heard that families with kids were turning themselves in, so I decided to turn myself in,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said she was thankful to be inside the church while hundreds sleep outside.

“It’s a lot of help because we don’t expose our children to the cold or other stuff. At least for me, back home I don’t have anybody to pay or to pay for a hotel,” she said. “This helps us in the meantime so that we can achieve our goal.”

The area being used as a shelter is a gymnasium at the church. There are mats on the floor inside, and children can be seen playing.

Garcia mentioned that he does have some concerns as more migrants are expected once Title 42 is lifted.

“Our concern would be just access to our building, the fact that people may get upset that we can’t help them. Obviously, we are going to continue to focus on what we can do according to our resources and capacity,” he said.

The number of people outside the church has had an impact on church attendance, although not too drastically.

“They may be afraid when they see the crowds. The parking itself is not that much of a problem because it’s not like the people here have cars, but on the other hand, they are often impinging on the area of parking,” said Garcia.

As KTSM previously reported, a case of chickenpox was confirmed at Sacred Heart Church, but Garcia says they have no cases of bedbugs inside.

The City of El Paso said bed bugs have been confirmed in the general area.

In addition, the church is asking for donations at the shelter between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. daily. Upon arrival, please call (915) 532-5447.

Requested items to donate includes the following:

  • Deodorant for men/women
  • Antibiotic ointment & gauze
  • Cold & cough medicine in syrup & pill form
  • Body lotion (travel size)
  • Toothpaste (travel size) 
  • Toothbrushes
  • Razors
  • Shampoo & conditioner (travel size)
  • Lip balm/Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Foot powder
  • Muscle/joint cream

New and gently used (clean) clothing.

  • New underwear (women & men size S, M)
  • Sports bras (size S, M)
  • Socks (women and men)
  • Pants for men (size S, M) no dress pants
  • Shoes (men, women, children) no boots/dress shoes 
  • Lightweight shirts for men (size S, M) no dress shirts
  • Lightweight shirts for women (size S, M)
  • Shorts for men and women 
  • Leggings/joggers for women & girls 2 years of age and up
  • Small combs/brushes
  • Shower shoes (flip-flops)
  • Reusable tote bags/lightweight backpacks (used or new)