As of Wednesday, approximately 5,000 asylum applicants have been released from federal custody in Las Cruces since April 12, according to the city.
Internet and telephone services have been activated at the former U.S. Army Reserve Center on Brown Road, which the city began leasing in April as a central processing center for the Central American migrants being released daily by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Citing an unprecedented spike in migrants seeking asylum at ports of entry and after unauthorized entry into the United States, the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector has reported overflow at its facilities.
The agency began releasing the asylum applicants, who have arrived from all over Central America, in cities near the border where local governments, churches and non-governmental organizations have done their best to help the migrants, traveling mostly in family units, find the relatives or sponsors with whom they will reside while their cases are in process.
Where do migrants go?
Las Cruces city spokesman Udell Vigil told the Sun-News that 150 migrants were released by the Border Patrol at the Brown Road center Wednesday, and those needing overnight accommodation would be transported to the Annunciation House in El Paso or to local churches for shelter.
The Brown Road center is available to handle overflow as well as the Doña Ana County Triage Center, which is no longer in use for processing.
Through April and into May, the city has said the asylum applicants move on to their sponsor residences as soon as they make travel arrangements, usually within one to two days, but with the arrival of a busier travel season departures have slowed.
Meanwhile, shelters in El Paso and Las Cruces have been crowded and a new tent facility opened by the Border Patrol last week is past its capacity.
Vigil said Las Cruces is working with the state to arrange transportation for some local arrivals to Denver and Dallas, with Annunciation House coordinating with nonprofits in those cities to provide temporary shelter and services.
Las Cruces volunteers needed
The city says it still needs volunteers every day of the week, and Spanish speakers are in particular demand to help migrants with their travel documents. Volunteers also prepare and serve meals and sort donated items, mostly clothing.
One frequent volunteer at the Brown Road facility, Irene Schultz, lives just across the street from the center. Speaking no Spanish, she has had little interaction with the guests, but has helped as needed with preparing donated clothing and toys.
She told the Sun-News one challenge is finding clothing in the right sizes, for men in particular.
“These folks are small people,” she said. “Anything over 34 (inches) would be way too big.”
She also said the migrants frequently need shoelaces, as they are confiscated by the Border Patrol and not given back when they are released from custody. Many arrive with no shoes at all.
“Almost every kid I saw come in there (on Sunday) had no shoes,” she said.
‘We’re happy about it’
From the windows of her home, Schultz said she enjoys watching children play, often kicking a soccer ball around within the fenced property. She said she also observed a father and two children picking up trash around the facility.
Schultz and her husband have lived off of Brown Road, very close to the Army Reserve Center, for 11 years.
“We’re happy about it,” Schultz said. “It’s nice, for one thing, to see the building being used because it’s been empty for years; and it’s being used for a good cause.”
She said not everyone in the area was happy with the arrangement, however. She initially put a “welcome” sign on her fence, but took it down out of concern for reprisals or protests.
“I’ve heard vehicles go by (at night) and they’ll like rev up their engine and honk the horn all the way across to the end of the facility,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s sport or because they don’t like it, I don’t know. It’s really annoying.”
© 2019 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)
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