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Once holding 1,000 migrants, Respite Center sees dramatic drop, now helping homeless

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McAllen Respite Center (Source: KGBT Photo)

New numbers released Monday afternoon by the Trump Administration say for the sixth straight month, there has been a decline in immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

CBP officials credit the Migrant Protection Protocol, or MPP, as the reason for the dramatic drop. 

Since the new policy, migrants are being sent to Mexico instead of, in some cases, to the Catholic Charities Respite Center in downtown McAllen. 

In June, our cameras were inside when about 900 migrants were living there. Now, there is a much different view inside the same building with much fewer people. 

“As you can see, we don’t have the thousands of people we had in July since the new MPP policy came into effect in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Sister Norma Pimentel who runs Catholic Charities Respite Center. 

On Monday, we counted less than 10 people inside. 

Five children were watching a movie in a back room, which was was so full this summer no media was allowed in. 

Pimentel says even though there are only a few migrants inside the facility, Catholic Charities still needs donations because they send food and clothes into Matamoros, Mexico daily. 

“Evidently there’s a great need over there and families are really suffering. They don’t have anything and they desperately need help,” said Pimentel. 

The few people that come through the doors are those that don’t qualify for the remain in Mexico policy, because either they’re not from Central America, or are classified as ‘high risk migrants’ by CBP. 

“Maybe a mom that just gave birth or is about to. I mean now, it’s maybe 20 to 50 families,” said Pimentel. “At one point, we had 1,000 a day.” 

The people inside were from Haiti and Africa who say they’re fleeing violence and poverty. 

“Angola, Cambodia, Russia, China, those are the people we’re receiving now,” said Pimentel. 

The building has been paid off by Catholic Charities and now helps homeless people in the downtown area because of extra space. 

“Especially when the weather is bad, these past days, we just had invited them in to be in a warmer place.”

However, Pimentel says if the Migrant Protection Protocol stops, they are ready to house hundreds more once again. 

“People must be treated with dignity and respect. All policies and procedures to determine whether they can be in the country or not must respect human life.”

She adds the migrants remain at the respite center for one or two days before they find a sponsor somewhere in the United States and are released until their immigration court date. 

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