MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — Hidalgo County leaders have asked the federal government to intervene to help the overwhelming numbers of asylum seekers coming across the border.
“The declaration what it does is it allows us to go to the state and the federal level to seek funding to keep fighting these issues we are currently,” said McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos.
On Monday, the city of McAllen and Hidalgo County issued a disaster declaration mutually addressing the spike in COVID-19 cases, asylum seekers, and the number of migrants crossing over with COVID-19.
Rio Grande Valley and federal law enforcement agencies depend on the region’s non-profits, like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, to help house and transport asylum seekers after being processed.
“We have a process through Catholic Charities 500 to 600 immigrants a day, all of sudden, we’re processing or getting 1,500 to even last night about 1,800 immigrants,” said Villalobos.
Villalobos said it was critical to issues the disaster declaration so that they could receive more funds from the state to keep up with costs associated with asylum seekers.
“Some of the other FEMA money we’ve gotten for this purpose is getting expended at a very high rate, so that’s why we need to,” said Villalobos.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said there is a nursing shortage and keeping up with COVID-19 hospitalization of residents has not been easy. In addition, the influx in asylum seekers testing positive for COVID-19 is also tipping the scale.
“But now we’re seeing that they’re coming in with a high infection for COVID, and there’s no room for them anymore,” said Cortez.
Cortez said the infection rate for migrants rose to a shocking 16%, doubling the numbers from last time. Sister Norma Pimentel of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley also says the federal government needs to step in.
“What our leaders here did in McAllen and here in Hidalgo County our judge did is very good, I think they are stepping up to declare that this is truly going to be a disaster if the federal government doesn’t do something,” said Pimentel.
However, Judge Cortez said that no one from the federal level has reached out to them.
“I haven’t heard a single word from the White House. I haven’t heard a single word from the federal government,” said Cortez.
Although the county said they are doing what they can, their resources and manpower are running low.