Reynosa migrant camp swells to 5,000; Preps underway as tropical storm threatens region

Immigration

Thousands of migrants live in tents, and some just under trees, in a downtown plaza in the northern Mexican border town of Reynosa, as seen in this July 22, 2021, photo. (Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers Photo)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A migrant camp in the northern Mexican city of Reynosa has swelled to nearly 5,000 people and includes over 100 families who were expelled from South Texas late Sunday night, migrant advocates tell Border Report.

The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers helps to supply potable water to the thousands of families living on the plaza in downtown Reynosa, Mexico. (Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers Photo)

About 5,000 migrants currently are living in the downtown plaza, some without tents or any type of protective covering, and volunteers are frantically trying to send over supplies in anticipation that a tropical depression could hit the Rio Grande Valley later this week, Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, a co-director of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, on Monday told Border Report.

“It gets worse as there are less resources for people who keep getting dumped into Reynosa on a daily basis,” Rangel-Samponaro said via phone as she was crossing from McAllen, Texas, into Reynosa on Monday afternoon.

She said the expulsion of families from South Texas “hasn’t stopped. It goes on from morning until night.”

She said 100 families were sent to Reynosa after 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“That’s why the camp is growing so quickly now,” she said.

Her non-governmental organization works with others, both U.S. and Mexican, to help pair migrants with essentials, like tents and meals, medical care and legal assistance.

And those donations are amping up as there as Tropical Depression Grace takes aim at the region and could possibly hit by Friday afternoon, according to KVEO meteorologists.

Graphic Source: KVEO

Rangel-Samponaro was among a group of NGOs that on Thursday met with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when he came to the Rio Grande Valley to assess the migrant situation.

During a news conference Thursday in Brownsville, Mayorkas released numbers showing releases in July topped a 20-year high.

Hundreds of families are waiting for an opportunity to receive humanitarian parole in the United States. Some are part of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or remain-in-Mexico program that was begun during the Trump administration and was halted under President Joe Biden.

But on Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has openly been at odds with the Biden administration over the release of thousands of migrants into Texas from Mexico, claimed victory saying a federal judge has ordered MPP to begin again.

It is uncertain how that will immediately affect the families waiting on the plaza, Rangel-Samponaro said.

Advocates had been trying to move 1,000 migrants from the plaza to a nearby migrant shelter. However, the city of Reynosa last month tried to shut down and destroy the shelter saying it was built too close to the Rio Grande in an unauthorized flood plain. A Mexican judge ordered a halt to the demolition of the shelter, but plans to add on to it also have been halted, Rangel-Samponaro said.

“Construction has not been completed at the shelter since the City of Reynosa tried to shut it down, that made a long pause,” Rangel-Samponaro said. “Once completed, the goal was to take in 1,000 asylum seekers from the encampment but now it’s well over 4,000 people so it will help some but not a lot.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which helps to oversee migrant care on both sides of the border tweeted this weekend of the extreme numbers swelling at the Reynosa camp.

A medical team from a Mexican NGO was sending doctors and dentists to the camp at 4 p.m. Monday to help the migrants who are complaining of illnesses, including potential COVID-19 cases.

With extreme humidity and heat in the triple digits, many migrants reported they were too sick to stand in long medical lines, so the doctors and medical personnel were planning on going “tent to tent to tend to the asylum seekers,” Rangel-Samponaro said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.