The numbers keep getting discussed — how much the city of McAllen has spent on immigration relief efforts.
Mayor Jim Darling has noted the city has spent $1,500 per day recently to help bus immigrants to a relief center after U.S. Border Patrol drops off the asylum-seekers. District 5 City Commissioner John Ingram, who’s in a runoff election to keep his seat, said this week that the city has spent $1.4 million since 2014 on immigration efforts.
Now, with Border Patrol arresting more than 1,000 undocumented persons every day in recent weeks and dropping off many of the asylum-seeking immigrants in McAllen — and now Harlingen and Brownsville after McAllen was overcapacity, city officials said — the congressional delegation is attempting to help to secure reimbursements.
U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, have written a letter to the head of the House Appropriations Committee requesting additional language to the 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill; and Darling has sent a letter to U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz asking for federal assistance.
So far, the federal government has not helped. The letters, something not uncommon for Darling to do, have not made an impact.
“I don’t know why we have to go through a loop again,” Darling said of trying to secure federal reimbursements, which they’ve attempted to do over the last five years. “It should be pretty easy if you ask me.”
In his letter to Cornyn and Cruz, Darling said “our resources to deal with it are not sustainable,” referring to the migrants.
“It is not appropriate to have this burden fall on the taxpayers of one community, the city of McAllen, when it is actually a situation caused by the federal government’s laws and policies,” the April letter read. “We have repeatedly requested that the State of Texas and the federal government provide us with assistance in dealing with this situation, or, as noted above, come up with a solution that would end these ‘drop-offs,’ and we are making that request again. We do not want this situation to get to, where, for example, law enforcement or other resources are necessary to deal with it.”
But other resources have since had to step in, such as other cities like Harlingen and Brownsville, and other private organizations like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which has been the primary group responsible for providing temporary aid to migrants in South Texas since 2014.
Federal resources in the region appear to have been exhausted, too. The Border Patrol now has a tent facility in Donna and a makeshift encampment outside the McAllen Border Patrol station. The agency’s primary intake facility in McAllen had to close briefly this week after 32 persons were diagnosed with influenza. On Monday, a teen migrant from Guatemala who was sick with influenza died at the Weslaco Border Patrol station.
The condition of migrants who depart the city on buses, and sometimes flights, has raised questions among some of the traveling public. City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said it’s out of the city’s control.
“CBP does all the vetting, so it’s out of our hands,” Rodriguez said of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol. “And if they’re flying out of the airport, it’s up to TSA.”
While the city continues to scramble to temporarily care for migrants, officials are hoping the request from Gonzalez and Vela will get included in the DHS appropriations bill. The language the congressmen requested seeks to add a paragraph to the bill.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, grants awarded to States along the Southwest Border of the United States under section 2004 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 may be used by recipients or sub-recipients for costs, or reimbursement of costs, related to providing humanitarian relief to unaccompanied alien children and alien adults accompanied by an alien minor where they are encountered after entering the United States, provided that such costs were incurred between jan 1,2019 and december 31, 2019 or during the award period of performance,” the language reads in the letter.
If it’s not included?
“We’re going to submit an application anyway,” Rodriguez said, “no matter what is in that bill.”