The number of asylum seekers arriving in Brownsville has been at a continuous increase for the past couple of weeks.
Sergio Cordova, co-founder at Team Brownsville, said it is estimated the numbers will only continue to increase as the Biden administration announced they will start processing asylum seekers who are under the Migrant Protection Protocol, also known as the Remain in Mexico Policy, on Feb. 19.
Some asylum seekers under MPP have been living at the migrant camp located at the International Gateway Bridge on the Matamoros side for almost two years. They have not been able to cross to the United States and start their case — unlike new migrants who were not part of MPP and have started their legal right to request asylum immediately without waiting in Mexico.
Cordova said at first there were only about 10 asylum seekers arriving at the bus station, now there are up to 55 a day.
Every asylum seeker arriving in Brownsville is tested for COVID-19 by the City of Brownsville.
“There’s been asylum seekers being dropped every day. Two weeks ago, we were only seeing those who had been at detention centers, the Port Isabel Detention Center or El Valle Detention Center, a few a day that would be dropped off that either won their case or were waiting for their future court date.”
“Now, we are seeing families that have recently crossed, at the bus station. Sometimes, there’s 10 people a day and sometimes it goes up to 50 or 55. We are starting to see family units, and it’s only family units.”
Cordova said it is his understanding there are about 700 asylum seekers under MPP in Matamoros and that they start crossing to the U.S. by phases, with those considered as most vulnerable crossing first.
“We are preparing, we have ordered supplies as far as backpacks and hygiene kits, snack bags and shoe laces, everything that we give,” he said.
“We are taking donations so that we can be prepared. Volunteers have already been going for the last two weeks, when this started. We’ve been announcing this to our local volunteers and they are ready to go help at the bus station because we are going to have a lot of people coming in starting February 19.”
Good Neighbor Settlement House is also helping the asylum seekers arriving at the bus station. Hugo Zurita, executive director at Good Neighbor Settlement House, said they are providing hot meals, among other items needed, such as clothing. He said GNSH is preparing for the upcoming weeks.
“The last couple of weeks, more individuals have been released so with a partnership with Team Brownsville we decided to help,” Zurita said.
“These last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic. Some days 30 people show and other days 60 people show up, so for us, we are just getting prepared and I like the system that we have with the organizations that have been helping.”
Zurita said right now they have mostly been receiving families with children and babies at the bus station but said he feels this is the calm before the storm. He said they are asking the community to donate so that they can prepare to assist the asylum seekers who are set to arrive.
“I’ve been on multiple calls the last couple of weeks on what we can expect. Right now, we are receiving more families with kids and babies. So, right now, that’s kind of what we started putting on Facebook to let the community know that we need the assistance, we need donations,” he said.
“Just because it’s the calm before the storm. It’s kind of what happened a couple of years ago, we were just hit hard and a lot of us were not prepared for it. Are we prepared for it? Yes, while our funds hold us. That’s why we need the community’s assistance and donations to keep this going and keep on providing the services for the asylum seekers.”
To donate to Team Brownsville, visit teambrownsville.org
To donate to Good Neighbor, visit goodneighborsh.org