McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A migrant encampment in the crime-ridden northern Mexican city of Reynosa has swollen to about 2,500 asylum-seekers, according to the co-director of a non-governmental organization that provides schooling for 500 children on site.
Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, who founded the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, told Border Report on Monday that a new three-story building her NGO has rented to provide classes to students is also doubling as a resource center where blankets and tents and socks are being distributed to newly arriving migrants in Reynosa.
“It was meant to be the school, but it is turning into something else very different. It is turning into a resource center,” she said via phone as she was en route to Reynosa to help migrants Monday.
The facility is located across from the encampment, very close to the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, and it has become a place where migrants turn to once they are sent back to Mexico by U.S. Department of Homeland personnel, she said.
“People go there to get tents, blankets. When people get expelled in the evening time people give them blankets, socks and shoes from the facility,” she said.
Heavy rain batters the migrant encampment on June 22, 2021, where thousands of asylum seekers live in the dangerous border town of Reynosa Mexico (left.) At right a migrant endures a hot day on June 28, 2021, living in a small tent. (Photos by Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers.)
With the onset of winter and several cold fronts moving through the area, Rangel-Samponaro said her NGO “has had to morph into something much larger than a school.”
She said they even pay rent for many migrant families to live in apartments and to help them get off the dangerous streets of Reynosa, where daily kidnappings and murders are reported and where various drug cartels are warring openly for control.
At the encampment, multiple families are moving into tents together to get out of the rain and the cold in the fairly cramped downtown plaza near the bridge, she said.
“People are bunking with other people. People are sleeping under benches,” she said. “They have, unfortunately, made the space. That’s how we are at the number we are at today.”
Lawyers from the nonprofit Young Center For Immigrant Children’s Rights earlier this month traveled to the encampment and spoke with parents about legal options for their children. Rangel-Samponaro said many parents, out of desperation, have sent their children across the border unaccompanied.
Children who come alone are taken into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. And Rangel-Samponaro said often times the parents do not know where they are.
Rangel-Samponaro said three lawyers, including Young Center Executive Director Gladis Molina, on Nov. 8 toured the camp and met with families.
On Monday, the Biden administration reported there were 287 unaccompanied migrant children taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There were nearly 12,000 children in HHS custody.
Figures do not include Mexican national children who are sent back across the border.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.