Border agents in McAllen, Texas, are struggling to cope with the influx of migrants seeking a better life across the border in the United States. These border patrol agents have been forced to convert a public park in a migrant tent community to house nearly 1,000 migrants who have arrived in Texas from countries across Central America. However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deposited approximately 11,026 migrants in McAllen last week – a record-breaking number.
In July, CBP counted 212,672 migrants crossing into the United States. This milestone marked the first time in twenty-one years that the count exceeded 200,000 people crossing over into America in a month.
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos (pictured above) responded to the influx of migrants by issuing a disaster declaration at the beginning of August 2021. Local officials found themselves overwhelmed and inundated with people trying to cross into America because the homes they came from were not conducive to their wellbeing or success. Mayor Villalobos does not know how the situation became so “dire” all of a sudden – it just seemed to happen all at once.
“The numbers went from 500 to 600 a day. Soon afterward, 1,000 a day. And then an excess of 1,500,” the mayor explained.
Now, CBP agents take migrants into a quarantine camp located in Anzalduas Park. These migrants are tested for COVID-19 and kept in open-air tents while test results are processed.
McAllen faces a population crisis and does not have enough housing available for the migrants who are arriving in droves. The city has already placed about one thousand migrants into temporary housing in places like churches and private buildings owned by various charities. Hotel rooms are also being used to house migrants who have nowhere to go.
“I did not have enough rooms to place new families in isolation,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. “So that’s when we said to Mayor Villalobos that we have a problem here. I don’t think by tomorrow I’m going to be able to contain this within our respite center. So I need help.”
In addition to the large population of migrants, Texas is at the heart of its devastating battle against COVID-19. Intensive care units at dozens of the state’s hospitals have reached capacity – and the problem is only expected to get worse as more and more people stop wearing masks per the governor’s mandate.
In McAllen, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better – unless the government can step in and help.
“Initially, I didn’t see it as a problem because it was under control,” Mayor Villalobos said. “So I saw no correlation between the increase in COVID within our community and the immigrants because they were isolated.”
As of stats from the middle of August, 14.8 percent of migrants released from CBP custody tested positive for COVID-19. However, this is better than the state of Texas, which has a positivity rate of
“We can’t attribute the rise in COVID numbers to migrants,” Villalobos told the New York Times. “The influx of migrants just became too big,’ he explained. ‘The vast majority of McAllen residents never see a migrant, but we couldn’t risk them wandering around town.”
What do you think about Texas’s migrant crisis?