McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A group of 20 migrants who tested positive for coronavirus have been removed from a tent encampment and are being housed together in the northern Mexican border town of Reynosa, a migrant advocate told Border Report on Tuesday.
The group, ranging in ages from children to adults, were separated from the 1,000 asylum-seekers who are living in the downtown plaza tent encampment and taken to a giant house that can accommodate them all, Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, co-director of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers said.
Her nongovernmental organization on Sunday moved the migrants into “a really big house” to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, she said. She would not disclose more because of the crime and danger migrants face in Reynosa in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which the State Department has deemed so violent that it is restricting federal workers who are U.S. citizens and warning other Americans not to travel there.
“We had to move them because there were so many positives in the camp and people were missing their opportunity to legally cross because if they were called up and they tested positive then they lost their chance. So we didn’t want that to happen,” Rangel-Samponaro said.
There are over 1,000 asylum-seekers living in the makeshift tent encampment across the Rio Grande south of McAllen, Texas, which popped up after the Biden administration took office. Some were forced to wait in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program and have been there since another camp about an hour’s drive east in Matamoros, Mexico, was closed after most of the asylum-seekers there were allowed to cross into the United States.
The Biden administration has started Phase II of searching for migrants placed in MPP and is asking the help of NGOs, like the Sidewalk School, and the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, to help locate families who might be eligible to legally cross into the United States.
Rangel-Samponaro’s organization was the first U.S.-based NGO, and the only for many months, to service the asylum-seekers living in Reynosa. On Wednesday, during a town hall meeting hosted by La Unión Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) hours before former President Donald Trump came to the Rio Grande Valley with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to tour the border wall, Rangel-Samponaro was invited to speak to a crowd of 150 and she encouraged them to help solicit donations for the Reynosa camp and to solicit federal lawmakers and the Biden administration to lift Title 42 restrictions and allow asylum-seekers to cross from Mexico into the United States.
In recent months, Abbott repeatedly blamed the Biden administration for the border situation, claiming President Joe Biden’s “reckless” border policies have allowed migrants to pour into Texas.
“Mr. President, things have changed so quickly and so dramatically under the Biden administration. It’s been amazing and disastrous,” Abbott told Trump on Wednesday.
Heavy rains on June 29 flooded the tent encampment in Reynosa, Mexico. (Photos by Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers)
Rangel-Samponaro told Border Report she believes it is “racist” to force so many people of color to wait south of the border in such dangerous conditions.
“These encampments are full of brown and Black people. They’re not full of white people, and no one ever talks about that or says that. Even in Reynosa, we have no white asylum-seekers and it makes you wonder how are they getting here legally? Why aren’t they staying out in the encampment with the brown and Black people that we serve every single day?” she said. “People get expelled every single day. So, yes, it’s very much a division and it’s clearly racist.”
Heavy rains on Tuesday forced flooding of the camp, which last week also suffered flooding from heavy summer rains. Torrential rains are expected through Thursday and could bring five inches on the region.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.