The holidays and festivities are coming to an end this week with New Year’s Day now right around the corner. For many Americans, these past couple of days served to remind us just how fortunate we are to live and be a part of this amazing country. That each of us and our families are provided with countless of opportunities to succeed and move ahead in life. It is the type of life our immigrant ancestors — whether old or recent — longed for when coming to the United States in search for the American dream.
This year in Texas, not every child or family will be spending New Year’s Day in the company of their love ones. While news on immigration has recently shifted to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the Rio Grande Valley continues to see thousands of unaccompanied children and families arriving to our state’s border from Central America.
For the people and shelters in the Valley, the much talked about humanitarian crisis this summer is not quite over yet.
“The numbers increased a lot this past month, almost to 100 every day [last week],” said the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma Pimentel. “We have seen some that have already been caught and tried again. They have hope that they have a chance at a better life here.”
Despite numbers seemingly decreasing from the massive surge that occurred this summer, thousands of children and women continue to make their way to the U.S., completing the long and dangerous journey to get here from as far away as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. An estimated 52,300 families and 50,000 children gave themselves up to Border Patrol this fiscal year 2014; a 132% increase in the Rio Grande sector from the previous year alone.
And it doesn’t seem like the end to this humanitarian crisis is anywhere near in sight.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon,” Sister Norma says. “[The Border Patrol] considered the fact that we’re here and we’re prepared to receive them.”
Up until mid-October of this year, local governments along the border had spent roughly $560,000 in aid. But as additional refugees continue to arrive to the Valley, the counties of Hidalgo and Willacy have found themselves asking the state and federal governments for reimbursements, without yet hearing back a response according to an official in the city of McAllen.
Only time will tell just how much aid will be needed to help the Central American refugees coming across the border, children and women seeking refuge from the terrible violence that now plagues their home countries. Time will also tell whether Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott will choose a humanitarian approach to help ease the suffering seen in the Valley, or will follow his predecessor, Governor Rick Perry, in making a political show out of the crisis in the border.
Whatever the costs, folks in the border will continue to help the refugee children and women arriving to their towns.
“It’s the right thing to do and that’s my position,” said Sister Norma. “Your heart breaks and you want to help. It’s bittersweet. All of this attention comes from the fact that there are a lot of people suffering, a lot of people hurting.”
Sister Norma has been nominated for the Texan of the Year Award of The Dallas Morning News. You can read more about Sister Norma, and all the inspiring work she and her organization does for the Central American refugees here.