PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — Several hundred asylum-seekers have relocated from a migrant camp on the banks of the Rio Grande to a facility in Matamoros, Mexico, that the government and nonprofits have renovated for their safety, Border Report has learned.
About 600 asylum-seekers on Tuesday moved what little belongings they have from the sprawling outdoor encampments on the river banks to an abandoned hospital that has been readied for them 4 miles away in downtown Matamoros, Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley told Border Report on Wednesday.
But there are still about 900 people living along the banks who have not moved to the new location and remain living under plastic tarps pitched on the dirt near the Gateway International Bridge, which leads from Brownsville, Texas.
They are waiting for asylum appointments with U.S. immigration officials that are scheduled at U.S. ports via the CBP One app. This is now a requirement for asylum claims after Title 42 was lifted.
Several organizers told Border Report that the move is going smoothly and that more migrants were expected to relocate on Wednesday and in the coming days once they realize there are showers, toilets, security guards and regular meals for them at the new site.
But they don’t expect all 1,500 migrants living on the river to move.
“That was the plan all along, that it was going to be a step-by-step process. They knew that not everybody would go at the same time,” Andrea Rudnik, of the nonprofit Team Brownsville, told Border Report on Wednesday. “They’re kind of giving people a chance to see how it is and then the word will spread if people feel like it’s a safe place if it’s a good place to be. The hope is that then the word spreads that ‘OK we’re good. This is nice. This is good. And we can live here.'”
Pimentel says 800 have committed to relocating.
Volunteers with nonprofits from the United States, as well as the Catholic Diocese in Matamoros, are helping to register the migrants, and the State of Tamaulipas is overseeing the facility.
“Some were still worried of going. Hopefully today more will go,” Rudnik said.
Jim Howard, the pastor of West Side Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas, has been helping the migrants with the move and trying to get a water filtration system for the new facility.
He was back in Matamoros on Wednesday morning and said more were moving in already.
He said hundreds of tents were set up for those who arrived on Tuesday.
And organizers have to give out a total of 1,000 tents that were donated to Catholic Charities RGV to help the asylum-seekers south of the border, Rudnik said.
Howard said Mexican immigration officials with the National Immigration Institute (INAMI) were on hand Wednesday to help with the transition.
“They started moving yesterday. Everything was very orderly,” Howard said. “We discussed the water situation with the leaders and talked to the city water engineers so things are moving forward.”
Rudnik says some of their biggest concerns are about getting potable running water for the new facility, and she said she hopes a donor and the system come through quickly.
In the meantime, Rudnik on Wednesday and her band of volunteers were at a U.S. store in Brownsville, Texas, stocking up on groceries and other supplies to take to the migrants to help them in their new homes.
Howard’s church donated about $1,500 worth of water pallets that they have delivered to the hospital and to the encampment in the past week.
They also donated a swing set that was assembled and put up for the children on Wednesday.
As the afternoon sun was heating temperatures back up into the triple-digits on Wednesday afternoon, he said that more and more migrants came to the new facility and a registration line was forming.
The facility has iron gates and security surrounding what used to be the Pumarejo Hospital in Matamoros.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.