BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — A delegation from the Chicago mayor’s office visited this South Texas border city on Friday to get tips on how to deal with the migrant surge that is plaguing the Windy City.
Several members, including a deputy mayor who is in charge of immigration issues, visited with Brownsville city officials, as well as nonprofit volunteers who assist asylum-seekers who are legally released by the Department of Homeland Security after crossing into the United States.
The director of a nonprofit who met with them said afterwards she thinks the visit was “helpful” to them.
“The Chicago delegation came to really see what the operation looks like here in Brownsville. I think, you know, it is very different challenges. Of course, migrants arriving in Chicago are there for long-term shelter versus here we’re just a quick stop. So I think their challenges are very different. But it was, I believe, very helpful for them to see the operation that happens here, and the steps that we take so we can help them move onward,” Astrid Dominguez, executive director of the nonprofit Good Neighbor Settlement House, told Border Report after their morning meeting.
The delegation visited the Welcome Center, which is run by the nonprofits Good Neighbor and Team Brownsville, which offer migrants food, snacks, toiletries and travel information.
The Welcome Center is currently receiving 300 to 500 asylum-seekers per day, Dominguez said. That’s down from the 1,000-plus migrants who received help daily in the weeks leading up to the lifting of Title 42 in May.
Most of the migrants crossing here from Mexico are Venezuelans.
On Friday, Border Report saw several busloads of adult men being dropped off at the Border Patrol processing facility and then walking across the street to the Welcome Center. When they left, they had bags in their hands loaded with free goodies, and some had new shoes and clothes. Many were shaking their hands in the air and yelling out the towns to which they were heading.
Jesus Manuel Recelvado, 30, is heading to Los Angeles. He and a buddy were taking a bus but were waiting for a fellow Venezuelan friend to be processed and released.
He says it took them over a month to get to Brownsville and he said they were “extorted” by the drug cartel in Mexico and forced to pay thousands of dollars to cross the Rio Grande. In Spanish, he repeatedly said how grateful to God and the folks of South Texas for helping here in this new country.
“It’s an opportunity I don’t take lightly. And I want to immigrate correctly. I want to do everything right and legally,” he told Border Report.
He says he has family in Los Angeles who are waiting for him, and he hopes to get a construction job there, when he is allowed to work.
City of Brownsville Emergency Management Administrator Rene Tabarez Jr., says every migrant who boards a state bus headed to Chicago is checked out prior, and the city makes calls and ensures that every migrant has a relative or support network there.
“We vet those individuals. It’s a process that we do to make sure they’re not going to any other shelters, they’re not going to any police stations — anywhere you have designated as a shelter. The last thing we want is for them to go there. We want to make sure they’re going to a sponsor or going somewhere or if they might be going to a surrounding city around there that they’re going to have someone that’s going to facilitate that process for them right,” Tabarez told Border Report.
A couple miles away, dozens of charter buses were holed up in the parking lot of a motel, waiting to be filled with migrants heading to Chicago and other cities.
Over 16,500 migrants have been bused to Chicago from the Texas border in the past 14 months through the state’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said Friday.
Other cities migrants have been sent to include:
- Over 12,500 migrants to Washington, D.C. since April 2022.
- Over 21,100 migrants to New York City since August 2022.
- Over 3,200 migrants to Philadelphia since November 2022.
- Over 4,600 migrants to Denver since May 18.
- Over 1,000 migrants to Los Angeles since June 14.
But New York and Chicago have struggled to house the migrants.
Migrants are sleeping outside on concrete sidewalks in Chicago, on police station floors and in an airport, according to reports.
And as colder weather sets in, city officials are worried what will happen to them if they don’t find safe and warm housing
That’s why the mayoral delegation toured the Texas border this week, starting in El Paso and visiting San Antonio before working their way to this Gulf Coast city across from Matamoros, Mexico.
Migrant men are dropped off by law enforcement at a Border Patrol processing center in downtown Brownsville, Texas, on Oct. 20, 2023. The City of Brownsville assists state and federal officials to help asylum-seekers who are legally released to find travel, and ensure they have housing and support. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report Photos)
Three aldermen had been on the trip but returned to Chicago before making it to Brownsville, we’re told, after reports of an incident involving another alderperson and an unruly crowd angry over the migrant situation.
Dominguez said after meeting with city officials she feels for their predicament and that’s why it’s so important that migrants are fully aware and prepared to go to these cities.
“It’s education for us and for migrants, right?” she said. “Right now people are sleeping on the streets. … You go just because you heard there’s housing that might not be the case, right? So make sure you have a sponsor. And if you’re going there that you really have a place to stay.”
She said her organization is always looking for volunteers to help at the Welcome Center along with Team Brownsville volunteers. They also need supplies and donations to continue passing out items to those headed elsewhere.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.