Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate your invitation. And I hope I can fill you in as to how things are with the immigrants and refugees. 

Okay, so right now, given the different policies that have been set out by the (Biden) Administration, the numbers of people… just, really quickly, I would say that the Administration has not made any changes to open the border. And so for the most part, as we all may know, the border is closed. Even though you may hear in the news that we have an open border policy. Most politicians, like our governor, will say that the border is open, but it’s not. Actually, the procedure that the Administration follows is that everybody that attempts to enter the United States… even though our numbers indicate that they’re higher than ever, if you pay attention to how they’re reporting it, it’s not apprehensions, but rather encounters. Which means that they encountered people entering the United States but they are sent right back to Mexico because of Title 42 or deported back to their country. So this administration is actually quickly expediting the removal of people entering or attempting to enter United States, very quickly. 

Those that actually remain in the United States are those that they’re unable to send back for one reason or another. And those are the families that we’re seeing at the Respite Center. There, the numbers have increased slightly from during the pandemic to today. There is a procedure that is in place where people can actually enter through the ports of entry. And, and those are the folks that we’re seeing in our Respite Center. And the numbers are very limited, maybe 200 a day. So, that’s what we’re seeing right now at our Respite Center, an average of between 150 to 200. 

Some people that do enter through the river, irregularly, are for the most part sent to their country, deported immediately. But, if they’re not able to, because there’s a limit as to how many they can actually deport to their country for the day, those are the people that qualify to be released and are given permission to remain in the United States and follow an asylum claim. But those are very small numbers. We actually saw the highest number of people actually in the United States during the Trump administration, more so than ever. 

But, right now, the way things look, there’s a process for people that actually enter the United States. They have develop a new app that people entering or requesting to enter have to use in order to get an appointment, and that’s what they call CBP One. And that’s why we’re working with folks on the Mexican side, on the southern side of the border, to help them understand how to do that. There are a lot of hiccups and difficulties in accomplishing that, especially for families. So we’re working with headquarters and the Administration in trying to fix that so that families can easily acquire an appointment, even though it’s not that easy. Appointments are quickly taken in less than a minute, every day when they open up. And so it’s a challenge for a majority of the families, especially those that don’t have the proper technical facilities to do so. And those that do have money and the means of doing that are able to get an appointment and enter United States quicker. 

With respect to health, we’re very fortunate that local doctors have extended their openness to receive anyone that we may find that may need medical attention, especially if it’s serious, or something that needs a doctor. So we’re able to either take them to especially a clinic, or to pediatrics, or even to the Renaissance. Also, take some of the folks that we may need to take. The greater need of medical attention has been for women who either are pregnant, or have just delivered a baby, possibly at the riverbank and they were taken to a hospital by the Border Patrol and now they release them to us after that. And so for a couple of days, they need some medical care, you know, attention and we just have to make sure that the mother is fine, with the baby, before they travel.

Other than that, just over the counter medication is something that we’re in constant need of and those are things that come up and that most families are always hurting because they have some type of upper respiratory illness or flu or, for example, if they have some fever or rash in their skin. Tylenol for all for all ages is something that we are always running out of. And so things like that is something that we see, especially at the Respite Center in McAllen. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was delivered by Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, at a monthly meeting of the Voces Unidos Health Working Group. For more information about this group email Amber Arriaga-Salinas at: [email protected]

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