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  • Ali Bradley

"It's just the tip of a tidal wave..." NGOs and border communities brace for massive migrant surge

Val Verde County, TX.-- The director of the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition called 2021's surge in mostly Haitian migrants into Del Rio, a 'dress rehearsal' for what is already taking place in the same small town. Tiffany Burrow says, “I have no words. This is a lot and it’s not even what’s to come—it’s the tip of a tidal wave.” Burrow goes on to say the NGO is seeing “huge numbers” of migrants dropped off after being processed. She says the road ahead is going to be hard. Burrow says they have no plans to expand their facility despite the anticipated surge when Title 42 ends. She says “We’re only human and when it comes to that we will take it day by day…”

*Video provided by Val Verde Co. Sheriff's Office.


When I asked Burrow what Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition needs to continue to help people get to where they need to go, she says they are looking for churches in San Antonio that have extra space that can be a connection point as migrants wait for their bus or plane. Burrow tells me the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition is different than some other NGOs as they don’t receive/don’t rely on government assistance. It is run on donations and private contributions. She says tickets are not paid for and money is not handed out to migrants— This is a contrast from some other NGOs like Catholic Charities of RGV who are receiving grant money and have also admitted to assisting with transportation costs for some.


The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition has been assisting hundreds of migrants, mostly family units, that come to their facility after being processed by border patrol agents. The coalition was formed out of necessity during a surge in 2019 when there were more than 900,000 encounters at the southern border.


In September of 2021, roughly 30,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, crossed into Del Rio from Acuna over a two-week period. At one point, border patrol was holding 16,000 people beneath the Del Rio International Bridge and Port of Entry due to a lack of space in the holding/processing facilities.


At that time, there were a lot of questions around why the surge-- why then? Why there? It became apparent it was an organized effort with cartel on the Mexico side... using people as currency. In September, there were other factors at play. Thousands of Haitian migrants were being held in the city of Acuna as they didn't have documentation to continue on to the U.S. Migrants I spoke with said the Mexican government offices were closed because it was Mexican Independence Day-- officials turned a blind eye and allowed the thousands of migrants to flow across the weir dam on the Rio Grande, into Del Rio, Texas.


Now, in 2022, it is a predictable surge-- one that is a bit preemptive, but predictable nonetheless. Law enforcement are anticipating the end of Title 42. The CDC's health code that was put into place during the pandemic that allows for the expedited removal of migrants from certain countries in specific demographics back to Mexico. Some argue that Title 42 prevented migrants from claiming asylum, keeping many from families already here in the U.S.


If the health code comes to an end, as other pandemic-related restrictions are easing, law enforcement and border patrol agents say they will be completely overrun as facilities are already exceeding capacity. Thousands of migrants are currently marching, protesting and waiting for the end of the policy so they can enter the U.S. without being immediately turned back under T42.


Border patrol agents in small towns like Carrizo Springs and Uvalde have been instructed to release processed migrants into communities without public transportation. The Uvalde County Sheriff says they started using SWART buses to transport migrants to San Antonio-- A practice he says was used back in 2019 as well. These border towns also lack resources like NGOs to assist. CBP says family units and single adults with no prior criminal history are being released.


DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced today that Citizenship and Immigration Officers will have the authority to grant migrants asylum-- previously only a judge could make that determination. The secretary says it is to help with the backlog of cases. DETAILS: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/03/24/dhs-and-doj-issue-rule-efficiently-and-fairly-process-asylum-claims


This all comes as counties across the border are seeing an increase in illegal crossings and an increase in human/drug smuggling leading to dangerous pursuits.

The Del Rio Sector has seen multiple deaths while families attempted to cross the Rio Grande. Three of them have been children 4 years of age or younger.


Coalition Director Burrow says this wave of illegal immigration is not something she likes to see in her back yard, but she will do what she can to help others as it is a team effort. Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez says he is grateful that Burrow is there to help keep his community safe.


Border Patrol is working hard to keep migrants from being held beneath the bridge during this surge. Many are being transported to neighboring facilities for processing.

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