137 asylum seekers from Central America sheltered at Laredo organizations

Special to the Times
Published 6:04 pm CST, Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Officials said that 137 asylum seekers from Central America who were previously housed in a holding facility by ICE are taking shelter in Laredo as they await their federal immigration court dates.
Keep scrolling to see scenes of Central American immigrants recently crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States.

The City of Laredo said Tuesday night that it had been informed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that 137 migrants, made up of adults and family units from Central America, would be dropped off at the local Greyhound bus station.

The migrants are asylum seekers from Central America and were previously housed in a holding facility by ICE in Del Rio. They were released Tuesday as they await their federal immigration court dates to address their respective claims to stay in the United States. The migrants released in Laredo are not part of any recent migrant caravan.

Upon receiving notification from the federal government, the City of Laredo said it immediately mobilized and reached out to local non-government organizations to provide resources and shelter to this group. The City of Laredo Health Department is screening all 137 individuals, and all of them will be provided shelter through three local organizations: the Holding Institute, Catholic Charities-Diocese of Laredo and the Bethany House of Laredo.

READ ALSO: Photos: Central American asylum-seekers cross Rio Grande to El Paso border

The City of Laredo encourages donations such as toiletries, clothing, blankets, personal hygiene products and water to the charities listed above as they receive these migrants.

ICE has informed the City of Laredo that they should not see any additional migrants being dropped off.

The City of Laredo remains in contact with federal agencies and these three local charities that are taking the lead in helping these migrants.

On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that it continues to monitor several caravans migrating from Central America to the U.S. border.

"We continually assess the capabilities of our facilities throughout the Southwest border and have been making ó and will continue to make ó necessary preparations," the statement read. "These include participating in operational readiness exercises and the mobilization of resources as needed to ensure the facilitation of lawful trade and travel.

"Since the initial caravan began its approach towards the U.S. border in October of 2018, CBP has reinforced staffing to ensure that we are able address any contingency, with support from interagency partners."

When about 1,800 Central American immigrants landed in Piedras Negras, Mexico, on Monday, hoping to enter the United States, local and state officials in Mexico were ready for them.

In fact, they had chartered the 48 buses and one Sprinter that carried the caravan of Central Americans about 270 miles to the border from Saltillo, the state capital of Coahuila.

"Coahuila, Saltillo and Piedras Negras arranged for the buses. Their leaders had all met on Saturday in Saltillo, and came up with a plan," Coahuila state spokesman Josť Gabriel Borrego said.

By Tuesday, the migrants, including a large number of women and young children, were being housed in an unused maquiladora, a former assembly plant. There are about 35 active industrial plants in this border city.

A large new sign on the fence reads, "Albergue Migrantes," Spanish for "Migrant Shelter."

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The caravan was the first to reach the Texas border since similar waves of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America traveled on foot and in vehicles last fall through Mexico toward California.

Some of the migrants there tried to crash the border illegally and were met by Border Patrol agents firing tear gas canisters.

The chaotic scenes led to a new policy by the Trump administration in December that requires asylum-seekers on the southern border to wait in Mexico until they can see a U.S. immigration official, a process that can take months for their initial hearing.

It was one of several policy changes after the administration was widely criticized for separating parents and children at the border last year and holding them in detention.

Mexican officials have reluctantly agreed to accommodate the waiting immigrants by issuing them "humanitarian visas" and work permits.

The policy change is seen by many as an effort to discourage asylum cases, and is expected to reduce the number who apply.