Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

The border humanitarian crisis we are dealing with in Del Rio has been bringing a side of reality we don’t see on a regular basis, ranging from asylum-seekers coming from far and away countries in Africa, to volunteers giving away their time and resources for people they’re unlikely to see ever again.

Last week, three government entities held a joint meeting at the Del Rio Civic Center.

The governing bodies of the City of Del Rio, Val Verde County and the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District met to discuss and analyze the possibility of allocating tax money to address some of the needs created by the large influx of immigrants released in Del Rio by the U.S. Border Patrol.

A portion of the meeting was dedicated to citizens’ comments, and the community spoke out.

Without getting in too much detail – the meeting was widely reported on in our Sunday’s edition – the vast majority of the comments were against spending tax monies to address any needs created by the unannounced visitors: the asylum-seekers.

Some like to refer to these individuals with diminishing or pejorative labels.

I will refer to them as asylum-seekers, because that is what they are. Whether their asylum claim is legitimate or not, whether their entry into the country represents a crime or not is not for me to decide, I will leave those tasks to our immigration courts, which are way more experienced than I am in legal matters. As far as I know an individual is not a criminal until he or she has been convicted of a crime.

Yes, the arrival of asylum-seekers has created a burden to municipal, county, school, and hospital facilities just to name a few, but the reality is Del Rioans are going to have to deal with it until comprehensive immigration legislation is passed.

Border Patrol Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul L. Ortiz was very clear during the meeting, he said the agency has no way of holding these individuals in overcrowded detention facilities, and that the only option they have is to release them.

The Border Patrol has coordinated efforts with city and county officials, announcing the scheduled releases ahead of time, and giving them time to prepare for the needs created by these large groups of people needing to travel out of town.

The Chihuahua Neighborhood Center, at 1401 Las Vacas, a portion of which was originally authorized by the city council to be used by the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition as a processing center for asylum-seekers, has been at times overwhelmed.

The city council originally didn’t want to open the center to overnight stays, but as the situation evolved they not only opened the building next door for asylum-seekers to stay while they wait for their ride, but also directed the overflow to the Joe Ramos Center.

The reality is that even if they don’t allocate funds to address the crisis, these government entities are going to have to dedicate resources to this cause at some point.

According to the figures presented by Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, as of last week the processing center had received 2,700 individuals, with 900 of them staying overnight.

Learning on the fly, the coalition has gained loads of experience and are running a well-organized operation, helping the asylum-seekers and helping the community of Del Rio by preventing them from wandering around looking for help.

Dozens of organizations, both local and from out of town have stepped up to the plate and helped in any way they can, including donating time and resources to the cause. Coalition volunteers have logged in over 7,000 volunteer hours so far. The man-hours alone represent over $50,000 at minimum wage.

So at the end of the day, just the same way we are sometimes forced to receive unannounced visitors when the house is not ready for them, the discussion should be how to use and to spend our resources wisely, in a more effective way, rather than allocating funds to the immigrants cause or not.

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