The El Paso non-profit is doing the difficult work of finding shelter for increasingly large groups of migrants.
|Dec 27 2018||Public post|
It’s the giving time of year, and at the moment the cause of Annunciation House is among the most worthy in the nation. The El Paso non-profit is responsible year-round for finding shelter for migrants released into the city by ICE. In the last four days, ICE has dropped about 1,300 migrants off at a bus station in the city’s downtown—an unexplained and unannounced spike that has sent Annunciation House scrambling.
The practice has prompted outcry from migrant advocates in the area, as well as from outgoing Rep. Beto O’Rourke and other politicians across the country. In recent days ICE has at least said they’ll tell Annunciation House and other aid groups before dropping off migrants.
At the top of the list of needs for A-House are financial donations. Those funds go toward finding motel rooms for migrants—the recent influx of unexpected releases has exhausted A-House’s network of foster homes—as well as food, gas for A-House’s vehicles and prescriptions for migrants. You can donate here.
The organization is not accepting used clothes, but is accepting new clothes, especially undergarments for men, women and children. If you’re in the El Paso area, A-House also needs volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to migrants in foster homes and motels across the city, as well as volunteers to help transport migrants to the bus station and the airport. Those interested in volunteering can reach A-House at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The director of A-House, Ruben Garcia, has been an El Paso fixture for decades. He has been instrumental in helping reporters understand the issues of migration—and more so in providing details of the challenges migrants have faced along the way and after they’ve reached the United States, where they’re often placed in detention.
For many years now, Garcia has been the go-to person for ICE and other agencies to reach out to when they release migrants. Some days it’s a dozen or so, other days more than 50, oftentimes more than 100. Garcia and his staff at A-House work their network of foster homes and churches to find beds for the migrants. Many of those places also provide meals, clean clothing and other resources for migrants to reach family elsewhere in the United States.
It’s the unsung work that in another country would prompt A-House to be referred to as a refugee aid NGO. But we don’t say that here, because other than a few unnamed DHS officials who have called the surge in family migration a “humanitarian crisis,” many Americans don’t recognize it as such.
The events of recent weeks have called attention to this crisis. The deaths of Jakelin Caal and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez have rightly brought immigration and mass detention of migrants back to the top of the news cycle. Last week, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen blamed everyone she could think of but her own department for the conditions inside facilities and what appears to be DHS’ failure to respond to a surge in family migrations that the agency itself has noted.
“The laws aren’t keeping up with migrant flows,” she told representatives on Capitol Hill.
But, as I have written repeatedly, it’s not that the laws aren’t “keeping up” with trends in migration, it’s that it is the purposeful intent of the Trump administration and DHS to impede migrants from entering the country—even lawfully through the asylum process—as much as possible.
It is the Trump administration that is creating laws in order to achieve this objective.
A study released this month from Human Rights First shows in clarifying detail how the administration’s policies of restricting the asylum process have resulted in an uptick in migrants crossing between ports of entry—thereby attempting to avoid the results of those restrictive policies.
Last week, I speculated that Caal, her father and the group of migrants that crossed near the Antelope Wells port of entry were part of this trend. I went a step further and added that they probably crossed there because they figured the port was so small they wouldn’t encounter the lines and bottlenecks that have turned into migrant camps in Juarez, Tijuana and elsewhere.
It turns out I was at least partly right.
“They’re essentially driving them right up the Antelope Wells area,” Kevin McAleenan, a high-ranking DHS official, told the Washington Post. “[...] the migrants are walking around a kind of barbed wire fence and walking directly up to the port of entry.”
(This brings up the entirely separate issue of DHS’ claims that Caal and her father entered illegally—part of a larger set of questions about specifically where they entered, but that’s an issue for another day.)
Now the largest question looms: what has the government done to both prepare for and deal with this surge? The 1,300 migrants dropped off at the bus station in El Paso the last four days are simply the latest indication of the surge.
That puts a lot of pressure on organizations like Annunciation House. They could use your help.
P.S. The photo at the top of this post was taken in September at Paso Del Norte—the bridge between Juarez and El Paso—by my friend, the photojournalist Zach Nelson. I’m likely heading back to the region this weekend to report on the surge in crossings by migrant families, and within the week, Zach and I should have a story at VICE about the complexities of life in the El Paso borderland. Stay tuned.