General story

Donations, volunteering surge at border asylum-seeker center

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 space.

“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.
On the web: Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley donation page:

About the author

Manuel Valdes

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

  • “This is a paid political announcement by Mr. Potato Head”

    RAICES is another left wing lobby group that files harassing lawsuits and contributes nothing to the welfare of immigrant children.

  • Yes, Bob, those who support biblical principles of kindness to those seeking asylum are “left wing.”

    That’s the sad state of the right wing today.

  • Donations, volunteering surge at border asylum-seeker center
    And that is the way it should be.
    Stop the flow of free money/entitlements……………………fine businesses who employ non-residents and POOF, we don’t have a problem at the border any longer.
    It is absolutely outrageous 6 figure incomes are given to men and women who work for Refugee Resettlement. What a total disgrace.

  • You should spend some time looking at not-for-profits, their salaries, and the percentage of their intake that actually goes to their supposed beneficiaries.

    The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services shows up in one of them.

    Here is their 990:

    Nearly 3/4 million dollars were spent on legal filings.

    Take a look at salaries and benefits.

    Then try to find the amount spent on refugees.

  • And you, BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca, should spend some time getting over your bigotry, hatefulness, and delusion.

  • Meanwhile, BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca, yours is busy kissing your hero Trump’s backside.

  • WHAM! BLAM! And again, nasty and typically Christian BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca does another personal attack on a sincere poster who was trying to help people who are in desperate circumstances.

    Bob Arnzen, you are just a jerk.

  • I’m glad you finally pointed out what President Obama’s administration was doing. Where were you then??!
    All of you are hypocrites.

  • 2016 GOP: “Trump isn’t like Hitler. Its not like he is putting people in concentration camps”
    2018 GOP: “OK, Concentration camp may be a bit harsh in describing it”

  • Yep, typical. Intellectually disingenuous. It was okay under obama. Where were you then?

  • Makes no difference. I am not supporting it now, you are. Making me possibly a hypocrite in the past, but you are a vile person in the present (and a vile person in the past since you undoubtedly approved of it back then too).

    This situation really highlights how monumentally dishonest, immoral and stupid whataboutism arguments really are. Because inherent to them is approval of current policies and actions regardless of how vile they are. While you are accusing others of a double standard, you are saying you have no standards at all.

    Trump’s tent city for children is a concentration camp

    Call them what they are: The Trump concentration camps of 2018

    “‘So What? Maybe It Is a Concentration Camp'”

    Even Snopes is calling it

  • So you were vile in the past??
    What changed? Your conversion to Christianity? Or is it because trump is in office?
    You sir are a vile hypocrite.

  • It goes by a number of names – Lisa Strom being the most common.

    Pay no attention to it – I don’t.

  • Decent human beings protest such conditions.

    More importantly you support it now because you are not.

    Why are you so afraid to address the current policy? Because you know it’s repugnant crap and are too spineless to discuss it. Oh well.

  • Spuddie’s particular entity does appear to be a scam.

    It’s actually a lobby group for promoting its brand of immigration and undermining immigration law enforcement.

    NPR gave them a very nice free ad not too long ago by interviewing one of their key poobahs and ewwing and ahhing for a few minutes.

  • I am not scum who supports putting children in concentration camps, as is Trump’s policy.

    Now your turn.

  • 1) detention centers – not concentration camps. I have visited the later and there is no comparison- so be intellectually honest and not inflammatory.
    2) President Obama did the same thing.

  • 1. Same thing. Same purpose. The comparison is not only apt, it is made by many witnessing the centers.

    2. No he didn’t. Nor is the current policy even similar.

    So essentially you are admitting to be a scumbag who supports the current policy of separating children from parents and detaining them in camps where their population is concentrated for purposes of control.

    Nothing else to discuss here. We are done.

  • Yep. Just as I thought. You make radical inflammatory accusations via DNC talking points; get called out; and go away crying. Big tough guy.

  • Not an accusation.

    A simple truth you have already admitted to. One which you are apparently uncomfortable about discussing in more detail. Oh well.

    By all means feel offended. I would hate to be known as someone who is sympathetic to vile scum who support putting children into concentration camps. It would be immoral.

  • I have done neither. Typical troll likes to declare victory when they have done nothing but preen.

    You were the one getting all in froth about “accusations”. Evidently the description of your position and moral character was something you were all in a huff about. Not actually denying those descriptions or bothering to show why they are incorrect. I am not interested in understanding why you are a reprehensible person. I am just letting you know it. Just in case you harbor delusions of moral standing.

    It is not being malicious. It is simply being honest for your own sake. Speaking a truth that you may not be receptive to. 🙂

  • Sorry – started to type but was interrupted. Let discuss:
    1) I have no problem with ANY President enforcing the borders.
    2) I do not take pleasure in families being separated from one another.
    3) I understand that the government systems in place to handle the influx of bodies is beyond capacity thus overwhelming staff, systems and resources. I equate this to the DMV but a thousand times worse.
    4) there are forces in play beyond the average person looking for a better way of life.

    Ok – your turn.

  • 1) Except this really has nothing to do with border security.

    2) Yet you support doing do. So who cares how guilty you feel about it?

    3) Trump’s own doing there by creating a situation and crafting a half-considered policy guided mostly by malice and throwing support to private detention interests. One has no business complaining about a situation of one’s own doing. Trump is wasting money in efforts to treat people of color like crap for its own sake. Neo-nazis like HHS secretary Stephen Miller are bragging about how reprehensible the government is acting.

    4) Not in the slightest. The forces in play are mostly white supremacists playing with the reins of government and looking for ways to attack people for their own sake. This policy, the first travel ban and the treatment of the DREAMers are perfect examples. Creating problems for the sake of political strong-arming. Going through policies which defy all notion of propriety, are utterly confused in execution, and deliberately harmful to people for its own sake.

    Your excuses are weak. The government is acting badly for its own sake. Anyone who supports this crap or makes excuses for it is worthy of whatever insults and denigration coming to them.

  • Are you going to discuss or be an emotional name caller?

    1) Like it or not, this absolutely has to do with border security. The US, just like any other sovereign nation has the responsibility to control its borders. It may choose to keep the door open, or it may choose to close them – this is stated in the constitution. You may disagree with the closed border policy, but that it how this administration chooses to enforce the laws as enacted by Congress. It is not the responsibility of the people of the United States to financially support the populations of Latin America.
    2) I’ll ignore your stupid comment.
    3) the American people do not want open borders. You may, and others may; but the vast majority do not. This is not a racial thing- it’s a country thing. We can expand on this later.
    4) you are so narrow minded and racist that you think this is about white vs everyone else. There are global forces in play that wish to move populations to the United States so that they are not a drag on resources in their native lands. Mexico is in the business of exporting people to the United States so that they can work and send money back home (about 30 billion) to support those who remain behind. US and global companies want cheap labor-Mexico wants to export it. If you wish to expand, there are those that believe that flooding the United States with Mexican nationals will eventually allow Mexico to cede back territory lost to the United States years ago.

  • 1) this absolutely has everything to do with border security. The president has the obligation to manage the country‘s borders according to the laws established by the Congress. Whether you agree or not, the fact remains that this administration is enforcing the laws in the same manner that the former administration decided not to enforce the laws. The vast majority of the American people believe that the border should be controlled. It is not the responsibility of the citizens of the United States to financially support half the population of Latin America.
    2) i’ll ignore your stupid comment.
    3) Trump did not create a problem. Trump is addressing the problem. If you want to talk about who aggravated the problem, let’s discuss the previous administration and their blatant disregard for immigration laws and they’re willing advertisement to the people of Latin America to come north.
    4) you’re naïve in your simplistic view of the world that everything comes down to white versus everyone else. The fact is that there are global forces in play that encourage northward migration; both by US and global corporations that seek cheap labor, and the poor and destitute countries that are overpopulated and lack the resources to support their own citizens. Most migrant workers that come to the United States send back approximately $30 billion annually to their home countries. They are not seeking asylum, they are not running from persecution; plain and simple they’re looking for work to support their families at home.

  • 1) Not in the least. It does nothing but make the border less secure due to resources being diverted towards unnecessary and malicious detainment policies and procedures. Ones that we clearly cannot handle nor was any consideration put into it. Blubbering about rule of law and their enforcement is a cover for your lack of knowledge about the laws in question. This is not a border control measure. It It makes things more difficult. Especially given the Trump administration’s hostility to the legal immigration claims of asylum.

    “Open borders” is what ignorant nativists invoke when they want to make strawman arguments and pretend opponents stand for positions nobody takes. Its a sign you have no points to make

    2) Truth hurts. You support a reprehensible and immoral policy.

    3) Yes Trump created the problem through an unnecessarily malicious and useless policy he invoked. You have to be a sociopath to think his actions were a rational measure designed to help anything here. Nor were they the only possible choice. Like many things Trump has done, it was done to deliberately harm people not well thought out, bigoted and designed to coerce opponents. There is no such thing as a disincentive for illegal immigration other than economic conditions. There is no way we can make conditions any worse than the ones many are fleeing from. So the idea of draconian measures to deter them is fantasy. You are full of crap.

    “let’s discuss the previous administration and their blatant disregard for immigration laws”

    Why? Its a fiction. You are a dishonest troll here. On one hand you invoke the previous administration’s actions for whataboutism arguments. Now you are denying they existed. Typical lying Trumpie.

    4. It helps when you make grand statements yet show utter and total ignorance of basic facts. There is a demand for cheap labor and American citizens clearly don’t want to do the work. Manual labor visas would solve the problem far easier than wasting billions on concentration camps and goon squads.

    “They are not seeking asylum”

    Flat out lie as evidenced by asylum claims being filed with USCIS. You want to pretend asylum claims do not exist here because that would make them legal immigrants. Making efforts at dehumanizing them more difficult.

    ” In addition, every illegal increases the burden on local schools, emergency services and welfare services.”

    Not at all. They are ineligible for all but emergency services required to prevent public hazards. They work for a living and contribute towards state and local economies and budgets.

    But what does increase the burdens are $1.5 tax cuts on the uppermost wealthy that conservatives voted for. Even now Republicans are using lack of revenue as an excuse for cutting medicare, SNAP, and other public assistance programs.

  • Sorry, don’t speak Neo-Nazi. I have no idea who they are not care to hear what nonsense you will invoke about them.

  • You know Roy Hobs is a Neo-Nazi, right?

    Not a hyperbole or insult. But something he actually identifies with.

    By all means show your agreement with him. It’s funny to watch.

  • Please explain the reasons for their claim of asylum. What groups, religion or political party do they belong to that requires asylum.

  • You work for USCIS handling those claims? LOL.

    Each claim is based on the individual. Like all applications in immigration. There are thousands of claims evaluated by experts on the subject. They know their job. Far better than you would. (Typical Trumpie has disdain for experts and professionals, preferring outright lying instead.)

    Your ignorance as to how the system works is duly noted. You were talking out of your posterior with such nonsense categorical claims.

    Trump obviously fears such legal claims. Hence the various efforts to deny people access to legal counsel and due process rights.

    The family separation policy was done intentionally to harm families and disrupt efforts at asylum claims. Children are literally held hostage with efforts to get parents to waive asylum claims. This is the immigration version of trying to beat a confession out of someone. Given the lack of oversight and accountability in immigration enforcement, such tactics are still legal, but reprehensible.

    If the claims are somehow phony, then why keep people from having them evaluated by experts in the field? USCIS has been doing this for over 60 years. They would know.

    BTW, It was Republicans who demanded children with asylum claims to be locked up under Obama. The feckless president obliged.

  • You never answered my question. I want to know why they are seeking asylum. Please cite the reasons why they feel the need to claim asylum.
    Again, trying to have a conversation with you. You don’t need to be a dick when you make your statements.
    If you were going to be honest, you’ll admit that every single person that comes to the border is going to claim asylum because they know that that is the way that they will begin the process for entrance into the United States.
    I’m not saying that there are not legitimate reasons for people from Latin America to claim asylum. You mentioned thousands. Whatever the number is, it is not hundreds of thousands; or millions over a number of years.

  • Actually I did. It just didn’t follow your script. Their claim of asylum is an individual one varied by those applying for it. If you can’t or won’t comprehend that, then you should not ask such generalized questions or tell such obvious lies about entire groups of people. We have people in place who evaluate those claims. Nobody needs your uninformed opinion here.

    I am not actually interested in a conversation with you. I don’t think you are informed on the subject, willing to learn about it, and you are just giving me slogans and canned talking points.

    I am just here to let you know you support a repugnant and malicious policy and your excuses for it are garbage.

    “If you were going to be honest, you’ll admit that every single person
    that comes to the border is going to claim asylum because they know that that is the way that they will begin the process for entrance into the
    United States.”

    That would be a flat out lie. A convenient one used by our president to avoid due process and treating detainees like human beings. There is an entire process for dealing with those who make and those who do not make such claims. You are either misinformed, ignorant AF or a liar.

    “I’m not saying that there are not legitimate reasons for people from Latin America to claim asylum.”

    But you are claiming all of them are not really claiming asylum. You are making up crap about them.

    Frankly it comes down to this, if the president actually respected the system in place for dealing with asylum claims, he would not be pulling all this harmful malicious garbage on those who claim it. He is holding children literally hostage in order to prevent people from exercising due process rights they may have.

    “You mentioned thousands. Whatever the number is, it is not hundreds of thousands; or millions over a number of years.”

    Whatever the number is, you will never bother to research it. You have no interest in learning the facts here. Just giving me excuses for atrocious behavior, no decent person can approve.

  • Actually, many people protested those policies of Obama that were anti-immigrant. Many people denounced the high rate of deportations. However, the Obama administration also brought some good things like DACA, a push for the use of prosecutorial discretion, and a prioritization of categories of removal enforcement. ICE attorneys were willing to discuss matters rationally during the administration of Obama. Now, all of the amelioration of the harshness has disappeared.

    it’s kind of silly to say “all of you are hypocrites”. All of who? And how can you possibly know? You only know what people are willing to post. You cannot possibly know the entirety of the lives of anyone who posts, unles you know them in another capacity.

  • Detention centers are simply jails with more creature comforts. They are still jails. The children and young people who are detained are not free to leave, and their behavior and movements are severely restricted.

    Obama did not have a “zero tolerance”policy, so adults who entered with children were not processed criminally, meaning that children were not being detained, because parents were being jailed. And the fact that the Obama administration detained these children does not make it right; nor does it make OK what is happening now.

  • Peo ple who claim asylum do so, because of a fear of persecution by the government or a group that the government cannot or will not control, based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. There is no way to tell what is the basis of a particular person’s claim, without speaking to the person.

  • And that is another generalization that is not true. Some Christians do not contribute to the welfare of others; many do.

  • I agree that CEO salaries are very high. But I think that about all CEO salaries.

    It’s not clear to me why the salaries of refugee resettlement agency CEOs are supposed to be lower that those for CEOs of other people-helping entities, such as hospitals, or, even insurance agencies, or any other entity, for that matter.

  • Even some of them do contribute to the welfare of others through soup kitchens, food banks, ESL classes, homeless shelters, etc.

    The harm done to LGBTQ people is incalculable, as is the harm to poor women who need an abortion (because for wealthy women, the restrictions are just inconveniences). But housing and food for someone who has neither is of great importance.

  • You’re right. It’s just that hateful stuff is not preached in all Christian churches all of the time.

  • I understand how it works. My point is that 250,000 people all seeking asylum in the same month seems unreasonable. My other point is that they know that that is the code word to use to get into the country. My final point is that the majority do not have a legitimate reason to enter the US based upon asylum.

  • Fine. Detain and process them accordingly. Keep the family together if you would like, but make them go through the process. If they don’t want their family separated than they can enter legally.

  • Too bad the bad ones don’t believe in truth in advertising. This is why young people want nothing to do with religion at all.

  • Where did you get the number?
    Our current asylum law is very restrictive. According to current law, relatively few of the post-WWII refugees would have been granted asylum if they had applied at the border.

    Given the powers that the various criminal gangs have in much of Central America, the situation is much like war. When there have been wars in other countries (eg then-Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Liberia, even the Middle East until recently), the UN established refugee camps, and we processed refugees for admission to the US. We have done next to none of this with Central America. Our history in Central America is quite awful, with support for repressive regimes. We have done little to work cooperatively with the governments to help stabilize and to help fortify civil society and the rule of law.

    To a large extent, we have helped create the miserable situation in these countries and are now refusing to help those who are trying to escape.
    We are also shooting ourselves in the foot by refusing to create a more sensible system of work visas, to allow immigrants to come and do the jobs that immigrants have historically done. We systematically tend to deny visas to people because they are poor. Then, when the people who have tried to comply with our laws, out of desperation turn to coyotes who will bring them here unlawfully, we are surprised.

    There used to be a lot of circular migration, with people coming and working for a few years, and then returning home, often to start a business with the savings that they had been able to accumulate. These people were often able to then apply for visas and re-enter lawfully. In 1996, we passed the 3 and 10-year bar, making it virtually impossible for people to return to the US if they returned home after having stayed here unlawfully for more than a year. So, people remained here, because the money that they earned was too important to their families’ well-being. So, not only did we cause an increase in the number of people remaining here unlawfully, but we made it virtually impossible for most of them to regularize their status.

    The problem with unlawful immigration will be solved only when we make some sensible changes to our current immigration law. Until we do, deperate people will continue coming. Because we give them no other options, they will continue asking for asylum, because the situation in their countries is so violent.

  • Most agencies get revenue from a variety of sources.

    I am all for lowering the salaries of CEOs across the board.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.