McAllen church is sanctuary for immigrants
POSTED: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 5:18pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 7:39am
MCALLEN, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — The refugee families coming to the Rio Grande Valley in record numbers have a place to go.
They're typically given a court date for an immigration hearing. They're then released by the Border Patrol and dropped off at the McAllen bus station.
From there, they go wherever family members are. But until then, McAllen city buses would pick them up and take them a few blocks south to the Sacred Heart Community Center.
That's where Catholic Charities and dozens of volunteers are. They work morning to night, clothing, feeding and prepping the immigrant women and children.
"This is what our faith calls us to do," Sister Norma Pimentel said. "We identify families, moms, little children that are hurting and need our help."
When we arrived, within an hour, two busloads dropped off dozens of refugees. An estimated 200 people get help every day at Sacred Heart.
The operation has gone on for about a week.
A tent is provided by the city of McAllen and has 25 cots in it. Families sleep around the clock. They usually stay for about 12 hours and then they head back to the bus station where they catch a bus to where they need to go.
Zury Arrita had been in Border Patrol custody all week with her four year old daughter. They made the trip from Honduras and Border Patrol released them just Friday morning.
Arrita says she's happy to be at Sacred Heart after four days of harsh living conditions.
"We were in a small cell with 150 women with their children," she said in her native Spanish. "Hungry, very uncomfortable, not able to stretch our legs. As mothers, we had to stand so our children could lay down."
Arrita and her daughter have an 8 p.m. bus to Houston Friday night, where they'll meet her uncle.
They'll get cleaned up, fed, and given a meal for the long bus ride north.
To help, donations can be dropped off at Sacred Heart Parish at 306 15th St. in Downtown McAllen, or call 956-702-4088.