Donations Surge at Asylum-Seeker Center06/25 06:17
MCALLEN, Texas (AP) -- One by one, around Father's Day, the surge of Amazon
boxes containing shirts, pants, underwear and many other items began arriving
at an asylum-seeker rest center in the border town of McAllen, Texas.
Included in the packages were notes of support. One read: "As someone who
has a dad who would do anything for their child I hope this helps a few of the
dads that come through your doors with the same ideas."
The boxes started arriving as people across the country began to learn about
President Donald Trump's policy of separating children from their families.
"All of the sudden they started getting like a thousand boxes a day and then
more and then more. And they had to come and secure space here and that filled
up and they got another space and that filled up," said Natalie Montelongo, a
native of nearby Brownsville who flew in from Washington, D.C., to volunteer at
the center. She set up an Amazon wish list with items needed by the shelter and
posted the link on social media.
Now, the immigrant respite center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio
Grande Valley has received so many boxes that it had to rent additional storage
"I feel like each one of these boxes represents one person that wishes they
were here and is following the issue and that cares," Montelongo said.
But donations also came the old fashioned way, too. Local residents stopping
by and dropping off what they could and caravans of volunteers from around the
country who made the journey to McAllen in Texas Rio Grande Valley packed with
donations and cash.
Every day, busloads of migrants are transferred from federal facilities to a
central station in McAllen. There, volunteers from the respite shelter help
find the right buses and purchase bus tickets. As a group, they then walk to
the shelter three blocks away, where they can shower, eat, and pick up new
clothes, medicine and hygiene products.
Colorado librarian Wyne Cler saw a Facebook post from a friend's friend
asking for volunteers to help. Even with her limited Spanish, she jumped at the
chance, raised $4,000 in one day and brought her daughter. She spent hours
trying her best to help migrants at the center and trying to cheer up their day
with hearty hugs and laughter. Cler and her family fled Vietnam as the war
ended, she said.
"This is not my America. When we came in '75 we were welcomed with open
arms. And we were not separated. My entire family got here safely," Cler said.
On a typical day, more than 100 asylum-seekers are released from
McAllen-area holding facilities, clutching their belongings in clear plastic
bags stamped with Department of Homeland Security logos, said Norma Pimentel,
executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Now, Pimental is trying to channel some of the help into cash donations so
they can construct a new building by their church. The rest center currently
rents its space.
The center also needs more volunteers to keep up with the flow of people and
donations, and it needs additional medicine for babies. Montelongo said the
center has seen several babies arriving sick.
"I'm so devoted to this respite because I think it's the first glimpse of
what we all think the U.S. stands for," Montelongo said.