From [HERE] They arrive a few dozen at a time, their children by their side, their belongings in government-issued plastic bags.
The immigrants who step inside a Catholic Charities relief center in this South Texas border city are the focus of national controversy, but their concerns are more logistical than political. One of the first things they do after sitting down is fix their shoes — most have spent a few days in federal detention before coming here; they had to remove their shoelaces, and now they sit in the center’s blue hard-backed chairs, tying up their shoes.
Dozens of immigrants, mostly from Central America, have been crossing illegally here every day, most of them scooped up by federal Border Patrol agents, given a court date and an ankle bracelet monitoring device, and dropped off at the downtown bus station. From there, they are led by volunteers to the nearby relief center, where they put their belts back on, eat a bowl of cereal, sort through donated clothes and change their infants’ diapers.
In the drama that is the migrants’ journey, this is the intermission — the limbo of waiting for the journey to start up again. And it goes on, seven days a week, morning to night, regardless of the news out of Washington.
“They will always come,” said Mariana Salinas, 43, who was apprehended crossing the Rio Grande on an inflatable mattress with her two sons last week after fleeing the threat of gang violence in her native El Salvador. “We’re doing it for the kids.”
Earlier this week, on the day White House officials announced that President Trump planned to deploy the National Guard to the southern border, Ms. Salinas was one of about 170 newly released immigrants who were assisted by the center. The day before, the number was about 140.
Mr. Trump on Thursday railed again at the flow of undocumented immigrants across the border but took credit on Twitter for reducing such crossings to a 46-year low. “We’re toughening up at the border,” Mr. Trump told an audience in West Virginia. “We’re throwing them out by the hundreds.”
There was little evidence of that this week at the border, where a steady flow of immigrants made their way out of the detention center, through the relief center, and from there, onward to cities around the country. Border apprehensions have slid significantly over the past year, but the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that illegal border crossings had surged in March: The 37,393 individuals apprehended on the Southwest border was a 203 percent increase over the same period in March 2017, though the number was lower than in 2013 and 2014.
“The number of illegal border crossings during the month of March shows an urgent need to address the ongoing situation at the border,” Tyler Q. Houlton, the department’s press secretary, told reporters in Washington. “As the president has repeatedly said, all options are on the table.”
Three of the four governors in the states that share a border with Mexico — Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas — have expressed support for Mr. Trump’s plan to mobilize the National Guard to help secure the border. The Democratic governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, has said that if asked, she would refuse to deploy any Guard troops.
But here in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip of Texas, one of the busiest corridors for human smuggling and illegal entry into the United States, the issue takes on a far more nuanced tone.
The Trump administration’s immigration policies were rarely mentioned in the dining room and lobby of the McAllen respite center. Although the center was busy, no one working to help handle the flow seemed to think they needed help from the National Guard. These immigrants were mothers and fathers, teenagers and infants — men with baseball caps changing their child’s diaper, mothers and daughters brushing their teeth for the first time in days at the bathroom sink, men eating bowls of chicken soup.
Many of the other Americans who live here — those who legally call the border home and have done so for years, sometimes generations — appeared to share the same view: There is no security crisis, only the daily challenge of meeting the basic needs of migrants who keep filling downtown McAllen.
“We’re not in a position where military zones are needed in our communities,” said Sergio Contreras, the president of a regional business group, the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. “It’s not something that’s helpful. We want to showcase that there’s other means of securing the border.”
At the relief center on Wednesday, Lilian Morales Gonzalez, 22, tried to soothe her crying 2-month-old baby, a statue of Jesus behind her. She came from Guatemala — “so my son can grow up with his father,” she said — and was apprehended on Monday morning. She said Mr. Trump and his policies had no effect on her decision. [MORE]