McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Inside the Humanitarian Respite Center migrant shelter in downtown McAllen, Texas, children laugh and play loudly while adults make travel arrangements and get assistance from volunteers and staff.
There were only 250 migrants at the facility on Wednesday morning, but it could be migrants wall-to-wall starting next week if Title 42 is lifted, facility officials told Border Report.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which runs the Respite Center, says she is lining up other faith-based and non-governmental organizations to help house an overflow of migrants should they cross the border from Mexico into South Texas when Title 42 ends.
They also are asking for additional donations of diapers, baby formula, clothing and food.
“We work very closely with other people in the community, other churches, other denominations,” Pimentel told Border Report on Wednesday from inside the noisy and bustling facility.
“We will definitely be prepared to work with everybody else that is interested in wanting to help,” she said. “We’re expecting that if we go beyond the capacity we have here, we can work with other parishes and as well, other denominations that could work with us in a collective effort to provide the care that the families need.”
The facility can hold up to 1,200 people. It exceeded that in the summer of 2021 when it had to shut its doors to newcomers briefly as a wave of migrants crossed the Rio Grande into South Texas and flooded the facility after being released by officials with the Department of Homeland Security.
A federal judge sided with the Biden administration and ordered enforcement of Title 42 to end on Dec. 21. But 19 states, including Texas, have filed an appeal asking for a seven-day extension so they can take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Biden administration itself is appealing the federal judge’s order vacating a public health policy put in place in March 2020 by the Trump administration that allows DHS to immediately expel asylum-seekers who cross the border from Mexico or Canada, in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. The policy has led to the expulsion of more than 2 million migrants.
Migrant advocates say it is outdated and unnecessary and prevents migrants from their right to claim asylum in the United States.
“For far too long, expulsion policies like Title 42 have denied people the human and legal right to seek asylum,” said Melina Roche, of the grassroots organization Welcome With Dignity Campaign. “It is time for the administration to take the moral step towards restoring humanity, dignity, and compassion to our asylum system.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, however, says the order must remain until other policies are put in place to ensure the border is secure.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited El Paso this week where over 2,000 migrants per day have been crossing the Rio Grande from Juarez into the West Texas city this week.
“We’re mindful of the fact that Title 42 is going to end early next week,” Mayorkas told the El Paso Times during his Tuesday visit. “We’re also mindful of the fact that we have to coordinate with our partners, not just the nonprofit organizations with which we work very closely, not just cities along the border like El Paso, but also our international partners. So we’re moving as quickly as we can.”
Pimentel says they have been preparing for this day for many months. Title 42 originally was supposed to end in May but was again challenged in court and allowed to continue.
“We’ve been there before. In the past, numbers have increased high very high, especially in 2019. And so I, we have a very good idea of how to manage and help ourselves to, to provide the help that we want to the families that are allowed to remain United States,” she said.
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos issued a YouTube video on Wednesday saying he supports Title 42 and urges the Biden administration to kee the policy in place.
Pimentel says she avoids politics and her concern is just for the families and migrants who want to come to the United States to seek a better life.
“Ultimately, it’s really in the hands of our legislators and our politicians to decide how to manage the process and ensure that it is a legal process,” she said. “We’re here just to respond to the humanitarian efforts that our community cares about — the families, the children, the mothers –making sure they’re OK, and they receive the care they need.”