SAN JUAN, Texas (Border Report) — Triple-digit heat is causing suffering for thousands of migrants who are waiting in the northern Mexican border town of Reynosa, often without shade and water, a Catholic nun who helps migrants told Border Report on Tuesday.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said five shelters in Reynosa are currently receiving migrants — upwards of about 100 daily — most of whom are sent back from South Texas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers under Title 42.
Title 42 is a public health order that has been in effect since the Trump administration that prevents asylum-seekers from crossing the border to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Aside from their disappointment of not being able to claim asylum in the United States, Pimentel said it is the unrelenting 100-plus degree heat that is most difficult for them right now.
“There’s no shade so they’re out in the hot sun all day long. I was just there yesterday most of the day, it really hurts me to see them dehydrating. Water is of the essence. We get water but when you’re out in the sun so long you need to be drinking water all day long and so that is of high priority and something needed,” Pimentel said from her offices in the border city of San Juan.
“We’re working on trying to build more permanent shade, but in the meantime, this sun is merciless you know,” she said.
The majority of migrants waiting in the border town are Haitians, though Hondurans also are prevalent, she said.
Pimentel was distraught at times discussing how draining and debilitating the high sun and high heat can be. In fact, Border Report’s camera even overheated and wouldn’t operate properly during the 30-minute outside interview.
“We’re working on making sure we all coordinate together the response and the needs that the families have which are a lot because there are so many of them and basic things like water and food, a place where they can rest and be while they wait and determine whether they’re going to remain in Mexico, enter the United States. Their lives are so uncertain at this point,” she said.
Photos showing the construction of the Senda de Vida II shelter in Reynosa, as well as porta potties and bottled water being given out in April. (Photos Courtesy of Solidarity Engineering)
The newest shelter, Senda de Vida II, opened this year and can hold 3,000 migrants. Currently, there are about 1,500, Pimentel says. But it is in an open yard with no shelter or shade. And the sun beats down all day, especially Tuesday, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.
Migrants used to live under tents on the plaza in downtown Reynosa but Mexican officials forced them to leave the ara on May 2 before razing the camp.
Temperatures rise into the 90s early in the morning and hit triple-digits by early afternoon most days on the border.
“Our temperatures these days have been so high,” Pimentel said. “These people are there are all day. And I have a high concern for them. And I’m hopeful that many people do respond and want to help. And I’m thankful for the help. We have to take care of one another and especially if you find them in these conditions. We have to extend our care to them.”
Hats, bottled water, sunscreen and childrens’ water slides are among wish-list items that Pimentel says her nonprofit organization is asking for to deliver to migrants in Reynosa.
The Catholic Charities of the RGV website has information on how to donate.
The organization also sends lawyers and legal aid to the shelters in Reynosa and Matamoros to help migrants fill out asylum applications, Pimentel said.