While many of us spent the final few days leading up to Christmas doing some last minute shopping and ending our nights by cozying up in the living room to watch TV, hundreds of Central American asylum seekers were left standing outside after ICE unexpectedly dropped off the group outside a Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday and Monday.
According to a spokesperson of the El Paso Police Department, Immigration Customs Enforcement released the asylum seekers without an apparent plan for housing them. Greyhound officials notified the police after individuals from the dispatched group were trying to board Greyhound buses without tickets.
For those of you asking how you can help with the migrant families who were released without warning by ICE at the El Paso Greyhound station, here's some information. The most important step, if you can afford it, is to donate to Annunciation House. https://t.co/0oZVZ1lpii… 1/ pic.twitter.com/oMJJ9U3p8N
— Bob Moore (@BobMooreNews) December 24, 2018
In past instances, the federal agency communicates with shelters and local charities to ensure the community is prepared for the intake of people. Evidently, this wasn’t the case this time. The lack of notice prompted local non-profits to scramble to the scene to assist the asylum seeks.
Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, expressed frustration over the lack of communication between the federal agency and the local county, expressing,
“There’s no need for it. These are folks who are confused and don’t know where they are. Many haven’t bathed in days, many are hungry. We’ve seen cases in the past where people need medical attention.”
Local volunteers nonetheless came out to lend out a hand to those in need; distributing lunches, water and small toys for the children. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who helped pass out food to the asylum seekers, criticized ICE for not notifying the local community.
— Bob Moore (@BobMooreNews) December 24, 2018
In an interview that O’Rourke later posted on his Twitter, he commented,
“We’re trying to ensure that ICE gives the community notice next time when they know that there’s not going to be space in existing migrant shelters, to give the community 24 hours heads up so that we can find hotel rooms, beds, alternative shelters, food, volunteers — everything that these people will need to make sure that they are OK. We just need a little bit of a heads up so that folks aren’t … literally dumped at a bus station without money or on the street.”
Many thanks to volunteers & donors who ensure that we take care of families being released by ICE in El Paso. 200 to be released today. Over 500 tomorrow. Please make a donation that will go to food and beds here: https://t.co/062olx7YIp pic.twitter.com/IPpFXCtiR8
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) December 25, 2018
When reached by CNN, ICE blamed the incident on the lack of action Congress has taken on the issue of immigration. In an emailed statement, ICE responded saying,
“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border. ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”
The news comes in the wake of the death of two migrant children who were in the custody of Border Control. Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died from severe dehydration and septic shock whilst in detention earlier this month.
Her death sparked outrage from civil and human rights groups who cite her death as another example of how the nation’s immigration policies violate human rights. The tragic loss also prompted the reemergence of the #SAYHERNAME hashtag on Twitter. Her body was laid to rest yesterday on Christmas day.
My Sunday morning drawing… with a very heavy heart.
SAY HER NAME:
Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin
-7 yr old refugee girl taken into US Border Patrol custody last week died of dehydration and exhaustion.
— Jon Lion (@JonLionFineArt) December 16, 2018
Sadly, yesterday, Felipe Gomez Alonso, an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala also died in government custody. In the days preceding his death, the young boy was sent to a hospital for cold and flu-like symptoms. But CBP says it does not know the cause of Felipe’s death.
The current administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border, has been under increased pressure from civil rights groups over the way migrants and refugees are treated both at the border and once in the custody.
These cases are emphatically indicative that we need to demand more language, representation, and policies that see immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers as human beings, and should, therefore, be treated with the dignity, care, protection and respect every person is entitled to.