BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — Organizers are preparing to move a camp with over 1,000 asylum-seeking migrants from the banks of the Rio Grande to an area of Matamoros, Mexico that is farther from the border and downtown to provide them meals and for their safety, Border Report has learned.
The move could come as early as Tuesday, according to Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley. She has been working with other non-governmental organizations and nonprofits and the city of Matamoros and Mexican state of Tamaulipas to relocate the migrants to an abandoned hospital that is being renovated, she said.
“Right now we’re working at helping the people that are staying by the river at the camp in terrible conditions, some of them sometimes don’t eat at least one meal a day; there’s no water.
“We, the City of Matamoros and the State of Tamaulipas are working together with a lot of the NGOs to try to establish a place where they can get all the water all the food in an organized way and so they’re opening up a hospital for this purpose,” Pimentel told Border Report.
The hospital is a block from a downtown bus station and Pimentel said buses will retrieve the migrants from the riverbank encampments — where many live under flimsy plastic tarps and with little food, and no running water or toilets — and take them to the renovated hospital site.
A hospital is being renovated to hold 1,000 to 1,500 asylum-seeking migrants in Matamoros, Mexico. The hospital is close to the city’s bus station and has an iron gate enclosure and security. (Courtesy Photos)
About 1,500 total asylum-seekers are living in several outdoor encampments sprawled along the Rio Grande on the other side of the Gateway International Bridge in the dangerous border town of Matamoros.
Since Title 42 was lifted in May, the Department of Homeland Security now requires all migrants who want to come into the United States to schedule asylum interviews via the CBP One app. But there are only 1,450 daily appointments available along the entire Southwest border.
“A lot of people are waiting. They want to enter the U.S. legally, safely and orderly and the process to do that it takes a while because there’s not that many appointments they can make per day and they screen them at great lengths so it takes a while,” Pimentel said.
She estimates about 1,000 migrants will move to the renovated hospital facility immediately. The site is behind an iron fence and organizers say it is much safer for the migrants.
Jim Howard, the pastor of West Side Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas, who visits Matamoros frequently and takes supplies to help the migrants, says that rows of tents will be put up for the families.
But he said many of them are scared to relocate.
“Well, they’ve been attacked where they are so when they start thinking about leaving there they’re uncertain. They don’t know where they’re going. They don’t know if they’ll put them on a bus and they’ll deport them. They don’t know that. They’re very curious about what’s going on. And they’re scared,” Howard told Border Report.
He and parishioner Joe Mccoart drove 12 hours from their parish to help the migrants for the past two weeks. Howard is trying to get a water filtration system installed at the hospital facility but they don’t yet have a donor or the unit.
In the meantime, he and Mccoart for the past week have been delivering pallets of water south of the border in their church van. The congregation has donated over $1,250 in water pallets, they said.
“We’re seeing a lot of desperate people. They’re looking for a better life. They want to take care of their family. The children are what gets me,” Mccoart said. “If we have an ice chest with bottles of water for us we give it all away. Just anything to make them more comfortable, more bearable for them. It just breaks your heart to see everybody hurting like this.”
It just breaks your heart to see everybody hurting like this.”Trucker Joe Mccoart, West Side Baptist Church parishioner
He has been coming to the Rio Grande Valley to help migrants for the past two years.
He says the current camp conditions are “some of the worst” he has seen since he started visiting the Mexican border cities of Matamoros and Reynosa, which are both in the State of Tamaulipas.
“It’s hot. They don’t have food and water. It’s so dusty and nasty over there. I don’t know how they stay as clean as they do. It’s got to be like sleeping on the ground,” said Mccoart, a professional trucker who usually drives the van to the border.
Previously, when the camp in Matamoros operated during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were banks of toilets and showers and laundry stations and regular meals delivered. It also was enclosed with a chain link fence with security guards.
Now there are no toilets, no potable water, no security guards and “very little food to eat,” Mccoart said.
Trans-criminal organizations and drug cartels openly operate in these cities and have frequent street power grabs for control. Pimentel and others say the migrants often are victimized.
Sinks and showers and toilets are being readied at a renovated former hospital in Matamoros, Mexico, where migrants will be moved to from an outdoor encampment. (Courtesy photos)
“Not everyone wants to move but most people do. It’s safer and has more resources than the encampments,” Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, co-founder of the nonprofit Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, told Border Report.
Her organization helps to provide education for the children as well as housing and other needs while they are waiting south of the border.
Howard says that although many are scared to move, they’re trying to explain to them that it will be in their best interest and safety to get on the buses and leave the camp for the hospital.
“The people who are doing this are planning it and making a lot of preparations like it ought to be done. They’re trying not to scare them,” Howard said. “There’s some people who are ready right now to go. There’s some who don’t want to go. But once they see it and some get in they’ll get to talking to each other on their phones and they’ll know it’s good and I’m sure they’ll go then.”
Catholic Charities collects donations for the asylum-seeking migrants in Matamoros. More information on how to donate can be found at the nonprofit’s website.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.