Officials with the Annunciation House, a prominent local shelter, are speaking out following the mass release of migrant families in Downtown El Paso earlier this week.
As KTSM previously reported, about 400 immigrants were left stranded at a Downtown El Paso Greyhound bus station Sunday night.
According to Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents released about 1,300 migrants in El Paso between Sunday and Wednesday.
Another 320 migrants are expected to be released on Thursday.
Timeline and # of migrants released during Christmas holiday according to Ruben Garcia:
Wednesday: 522 (11 hospitality centers were used for yesterday’s drop off)
320 are expected to be released today— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
“I’m calling upon CBP to commit themselves to ensuring that never again will families be released to the street (and) that it becomes…something of the past,” Garcia said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Although the recent releases are gaining national attention, Garcia says it’s nothing unusual in our area.
“The release of families is something that is utterly, totally common,” he said. “We have been receiving families that have been released by ICE for the last five years.”
Garcia says the release of families by ICE is common, they’ve been receiving them for the past 5 years. ICE communicates with Annunciation House to see how many hospitality sites are available according to Garcia— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
According to the Annunciation House, the organization informally works hand-in-hand with ICE to see how many hospitality sites are available.
“I can’t overemphasize that the communication system that has existed between ICE and Annunciation House has facilitated the process of orderly releases,” Garcia said.
“I can’t over emphasize that the communication between ICE and Annunciation House has facilitated the process of orderly releases. We are approximately five days from the end of the year, and for 356 of those days we had a preplanned orderly release of families,” said Garcia— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
However, an apparent lapse in communication this week is what led to the the crisis.
“[Customs and Border Protection] was supposed to let us know when they were releasing [the migrants] so we could have shelters and volunteers ready and [CBP] didn’t so that was a quick crisis,” Mayor Dee Margo said of the release.
According to Garcia, the Annunciation House is working with 15 hospitality sites in El Paso and five in Las Cruces to accommodate the migrants.
However, the sites still aren’t providing adequate room — with the help of donations, the organization is working with four hotels to house refugee families until they’re able to move on to their next stop.
“Our goal is to move all families along from 24 to 48 hours. What will it take to receive 3,000 refugees a week?” Garcia said. “The hotels are costing $150,000 a month and we are paying that through donations.”
Garcia: “Our goal is to move all families along from 24 to 48 hours. What will it take to receive 3,000 refugees a week? We need to activate more hospitality sites, more churches. The hotels are costing $150,000 a month and we are paying that through donations.”— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
Thursday’s press conference comes just days after an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died in U.S. custody in an Alamogordo hotel.
Alonzo is the second young Guatemalan child to have died in federal custody this month. Jakelin Caal, 7, died of dehydration and shock after entering the country illegally with her father near Lordsburg, NM.
The news of the children’s deaths is well-known among the group of migrants who were dropped off in El Paso.
“I asked the group if they had heard of the death of the two children and all the parents were aware,” Garcia said.
Garcia added that he asked the refugee parents if their children had been screened or given an exam while in custody, to which many replied, “no”.
Garcia says he asked the refugee parents if their children had been screened or given an exam while in custody and the parents said no.— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
However, some parents also reportedly told Garcia that CBP took care of their children when they complained of a cough or cold.
“I talked to the refugees that arrived last night and parents told me when their children complained of cough or a cold they said CBP took care of them,” said Garcia— Estefanía Seyffert (@EstefSeyffert) December 27, 2018
The Annunciation House is accepting donations of the following items to help the migrants.
- Financial Donations: these allow us the most flexibility in meeting the diverse needs of our guests. We use financial donations to pay for the motels we are renting out to provide overflow shelter. We buy extra food when donations falter. We buy cleaning supplies and gas for our vehicles. We buy prescriptions for our guests and respond to urgent medical needs. Please consider donating at https://annunciationhouse.org/financial-donations/
- Clothing: WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS OF USED CLOTHING. While we appreciate your generosity, we simply do not have the space or person-power to receive, sort, and store used clothing donations. They will not be accepted. We ask that you please respect our wishes and direct your used clothing donations elsewhere. If we ever start to run low on these donations, Annunciation House *directly* will put out a call to the community
- Donations: We are accepting donations of NEW underwear, bras, and socks in sizes small & medium for men, women, and children. We are also accepting donations of boxes of fresh fruit, especially apples, tangerines/oranges, and bananas. These can be brought from 8am-8pm to 1003 E San Antonio Ave, El Paso, TX 79901
- Meals: We need organized groups (usually church groups) willing to bring prepared meals to our various houses of hospitality to feed groups of 50-100 refugees. If you are a member of such a group that is interested, please email us with some basic information about your group and your availability at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Volunteers: We are in need of volunteers, especially those willing to drive folks to the bus station and airport. If you are already volunteering, please contact your usual point of contact to inquire if additional help is needed. If you are not currently volunteering with us, please email us so that we can do a basic screening process: email@example.com. Please have patience with us in trying to respond as quickly as possibly and please understand that volunteers who show up unannounced will generally not be accepted.