Special Report: The Two Year Influx of Central Americans to the Rio Grande Valley

Local News

For more than two years, the surge in immigration has yet to stop and its the Rio Grande Valley that’s picking up the tab.

So far in 2016, more than 59,000 Central Americans have passed through the doors at the Respite Center at Sacred Heart in McAllen. The influx began in June 2014.

An average of 350 people a day continue to pour in, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

Sister Norma Pimentel has led the efforts and has even been recognized by Pope Francis for her work with the immigrants.She said Central American immigrants come primarily from three countries known as the northern triangle.

According to the Council, these countries are ranked as some of the most violent in the world. Not including war, El Salvador has the highest murder rate in the world, according to the Council. Honduras is marred by corruption and armed gangs. Children are under frequent pressure to join those gangs. Last year, Guatemala averaged 91 drug trafficking-related murders a week.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) sits on the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations. He told CBS 4 News that last December, the committee allocated hundreds of millions of federal dollars for the State Department to use for programs and solutions, but the money was never spent. Until solutions are found, Sister Norma said that the volunteers will continue to work sun up to sun down to help every person who walks through their doors.

The city of McAllen has given the respite center more than $430,000 from its emergency fund since 2014 to help keep it running, according to McAllen Health Director Josh Ramirez. Other entities and cities have also helped out, bringing the total to more than $792,000.

The federal government gives Texas millions of dollars to use for immigration issues. CBS 4 News contacted Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to see if any of that money can be used to reimburse valley cities for humanitarian aid. They said no.

Abbott’s office issued this statement:

The federal government’s failure to secure the border has cost the State of Texas and local communities billions of dollars. The State of Texas has spent $1.7 billion on border security since 2005 and we will continue to work with local law enforcement across the state to provide resources to do the same. The Homeland Security Grant Program provides local communities with much needed resources for public safety to combat issues along the border. Any money allocated to local law enforcement programs as part of the grant process that goes unused by local agencies will be re-purposed for border security efforts.

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