EL PASO, Texas -- Shelters in El Paso mobilized to receive immigrants from Central America after the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley was overwhelmed by a huge influx of women and children.
“It is a crisis so many people coming in,” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso.
Garcia who runs an organization that helps immigrants helped coordinate the response of area shelters after he was contacted by ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents about a plane arriving with Central American families.
So many women and children from Central America are crossing the Texas-Mexico border, immigration authorities began sending the overflow to other parts of the border for processing including far West Texas and Arizona.
Most detention centers are not set up to house families with children while their cases go through the immigration court.
“Everybody is under deportation proceedings. The only difference instead of being in a detention facility, they’re released on recognizance,” said Garcia.
After their release shelters in El Paso offered immigrants help, “getting them a change of clothes, getting them a shower, getting them food and water,” said Taylor Levy with Las Americas , a nonprofit group that provides legal services for immigrants.
About 310 Central Americans have been released in El Paso in recent days. The Border Patrol detained most in the Rio Grande Valley but 43 were caught crossing the border in the El Paso area.
Nearly all of the undocumented immigrants do not need a place to stay. They’re leaving El Paso and boarding buses bound for other parts of the United States where they have relatives.
At the Greyhound bus station a Guatemalan mother used a borrowed phone to call a family member in South Dakota and scribbled an address on her arm as her 11 year old daughter “Darling” watched.
“I’m happy to be in this country but a little lost said, Norma Cacocoiti .
Her brother was trying to figure out how to send her money to pay for the bus tickets to Huron.
“I left because of the violence, said Cacocoiti.
She and her daughter left Guatemala and made their way through Mexico but their journey ended on the Texas border where they were caught by the Border Patrol.
The Central Americans who have been released have to check in with immigration authorities and appear in court but they will be allowed to do that in the city where they are temporarily staying with relatives rather than return to the place where they were detained.
Cacocoiti said she understood she had to appear in immigration court in 15 days.