Emergency shelters. Nearly every week this summer, one or two planeloads full of Central American migrants arrived in El Paso, were processed at the detention facility there, and then were released on their own recognizance. This amounted to up to 1000 people each week. Most were Honduran, and most were families with children. They were hungry, tired, and had not showered in weeks. Working with other community leaders from multiple faith traditions, we organized several emergency shelter sites to greet the migrants after they were released. They were brought to the shelters on buses. Upon arrival, they could sleep, shower, get a change of clothes, eat a hot meal, and receive assistance in making travel arrangements (with legal permission). Most stayed only a day or two before venturing onward to join friends or family elsewhere in the U.S.
Hands-on help. Around 5000 volunteers stepped forward to help with these efforts at half a dozen sites throughout the community—an astounding show of support. These volunteers welcomed new arrivals, cooked meals, did laundry, helped with travel arrangements, kept a round-the-clock presence at each shelter, assembled care packages to send with people on their bus or plane rides, and drove people to the airport and bus station.
Your donations put to use. Mil gracias to those who donated money and supplies! Here are some of the things we bought with the donated funds:
- perishable foods (milk, fruit, lunch meat, etc)
- phone minutes to connect guests with friends and relatives
- cleaning supplies
- toilet paper
- gas for vehicles used to transport guests to bus station and airport
- car seats to safely transport young children
- plane and bus tickets for those whose families couldn’t afford the fare
- over-the-counter medications like Tylenol
- diapers and formula
- plumbing services for the emergency shelters
- doctors’ visits
- laundry supplies
- specific clothing items that were not donated, like certain sizes of underwear
- utility costs
The work continues. As of September, ICE is no longer flying migrants to El Paso to be released. This is due both to decreased numbers of people being apprehended in south Texas, and increase in the numbers of people that are being detained rather than released on recognizance. However, Annunciation House is still providing hospitality for a significant number of people who have been apprehended in the El Paso area, processed at the detention facility here, and then released. The numbers vary from a dozen to 60-70 new people arriving every few days. This is beyond the capacity of our two permanent houses, and so our emergency shelter remains open. We continue to appreciate help from local volunteers in staffing this shelter, as well as donations of money and supplies to defray the many extra costs of welcoming these guests.