McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Conditions at a migrant shelter that opened last month in the border town of Matamoros, Mexico, are not up to par, different Texas volunteer groups have told Border Report.
There’s no potable water, regular meal deliveries or a system in place for the 1,000 migrants to cook for themselves, aid groups say.
The temporary shelter — located at an abandoned hospital complex in the city’s interior —opened in mid-August and is sponsored by the government of the State of Tamaulipas, which has urged migrants to move their tents there from a riverbank encampment.
“(There’s) no food, no drinking water; They have to buy their own water,” said Pastor Jim Howard of West Side Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas.
The pastor and congregation member Joe Mccoart took food and cooking utensils during the Labor Day weekend, and they were back at the facility on Wednesday delivering more supplies, as well as a wheelchair for an ailing migrant man.
Howard said they had delivered 40 50-pound bags of rice and industrial-sized pots, pans and spoons. “Everything they would need to cook,” he said.
When they arrived at the start of the holiday weekend, Howard said, they found individual families cooking instead of food being made for the masses, as organizers originally had intended.
“The problem is there’s no NGOs over there with money,” Kathy Harrington, a board member with Team Brownsville, told Border Report on Wednesday.
Since 2019, her nonprofit has walked over from Brownsville, Texas, with meals, tents and other supplies to give migrants living on the banks of the Rio Grande at the base of the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros.
But this new shelter facility is a 10-minute car ride from the border, and she says that is much harder for Team Brownsville volunteers to reach.
Matamoros is in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which the U.S. State Department warns American citizens should not to travel to because of crime and kidnappings.
Harrington says local non-governmental organizations on the Mexican side should step up to meet the needs of the migrants at the hospital complex in Matamoros.
She says leaders also should step forward from within the migrant camp, but she says that is difficult to find because families are not there long-term and are just waiting for U.S. asylum interviews for weeks, or perhaps a few months, and then they leave.
She says her organization is already taking food and supplies to the 700 or so migrants who are still living on the riverbank encampment by the bridge, as well as operating a Welcome Center in downtown Brownsville, Texas, for the asylum-seekers who legally are allowed to cross into the United States.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities RGV, who helped to organize the new facility working with NGOs and the Mexican government, told Border Report that nonprofits need to support it.
There were 600 migrants the first week it opened, and on Wednesday night she said there were already 1,000. “Everything runs out. They are continuously getting different churches to take provisions,” she said.
Harrington says that Team Brownsville has supplied pots and pans and sent food to the hospital complex, but they can’t sustain regular visits.
“They’re looking a lot to Team Brownsville to say, ‘Hey, what can you do?’ But we were buying pots and pans and dishes and staples. And yeah, it’s just a lot to set up and nothing happened. And then they moved everybody in. And yeah, it wasn’t well planned as far as the move. And you know, they should have had more things available there,” Harrington said.
Mccoart said on Wednesday they were going to take more cases of water to the migrants. They also are planning to drive north a family from Colombia that was legally released on humanitarian parole and have no other U.S. sponsors.
He is a commercial truck driver who has been part of the church’s missionary group that has visited the border to help migrants for several years.
“We have a family we picked up first of the week to take home with us,” Mccoart said.
West Side Baptist Church members help find food, lodging and travel services for migrants who are legally released by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States to await their immigration proceedings.
Harrington said Team Brownsville plans to move their potable water equipment to the hospital facility but hasn’t done so yet because now about half of the migrants still remain at the river embankment.
The group fills the tanks twice daily to supply water to those living on the riverbanks. Volunteers also send cooking supplies and staple foods for families to cook their own meals.
She says her organization also has sent flour, pasta, canned meats and cooking oil to the hospital complex — ingredients that families can use to cook. But she says more industrial-sized meals should be cooked at the renovated hospital cafeteria facility for everyone — not just individual families using the burners to cook their own dinners.
“The problem is … no one is in charge, and no one has set up any type of plan,” Harrington said. “They should be cooking big meals, you know, community-style where everybody eats the same thing.”
She says serving migrants from many different countries is not always easy and some complain that they don’t like certain dishes.
“Somebody there has to be the one to do it, to take charge. Because right now, it’s people running in and cooking food for themselves or their family or maybe a small group and then taking it back and eating in their tents,” she said.
She says the hospital facility also is filled with tents and has no more room.
“It’s wall-to-wall tents and there’s no place to go. The people have no space to walk around,” she said. “It’s not the ideal location, that’s my opinion.”
She says migrants who go to the hospital complex often leave after a few days or a week, and head to the riverbank where they wait with hundreds of others who are hoping to get an asylum appointment on the CBP One app.
Only 1,450 asylum appointments are available daily for the entire Southwest border on the CBP One app, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
Under Title 8 removal proceedings, which were put in place after Title 42 was lifted in May, asylum-seekers must schedule asylum appointments via the online app. They also must file for asylum in other countries they come to after leaving their homeland and prior to arriving at the U.S. border.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.