Catholic groups gear up to shelter record number of migrants amid Texas freeze

Texas migrants Migrants, including Blaidimar, 8, from Venezuela, warm themselves by a fire outside the U.S.-Mexico border fence while waiting to make asylum claims in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 21, 2022, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. | Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

As a Christmas freeze hits Texas, Catholic groups across the state are struggling to help the many homeless migrants facing record-low temperatures.

With temperatures expected in the teens and wind chills around zero in parts of the state, Catholic groups in Texas are ramping up efforts to help with food, supplies, and shelter. 

“The cold snap poses a real threat and lives hang in the balance at the border,” Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, told CNA. 

In partnership with the Diocese of El Paso, Hope Border Institute organizes efforts to provide shelter, medical support, and other humanitarian aid to the several thousand migrants waiting to legally pass through the border.

The Texas Tribune reported today that a recent surge in migrant encounters showed a daily average of 2,254, with more than 2.4 million migrants having crossed the border this year. 

Amid this record surge in migrants, Texas is facing a record freeze. For the thousands of migrants living in the streets of Texas cities from El Paso to Houston, freezing temperatures could have deadly consequences. 

With Texas cities’ shelters already flooded with migrants from the southern border, other homeless individuals may also find it difficult to find a warm place to stay.

The mortal danger of freezing temperatures lives fresh in many Texans’ minds. During the Texas February 2021 freeze, an unprecedented cold snap crippled much of the state’s electricity infrastructure. The February freeze engulfed the state, knocking out power in houses for extended periods and killing hundreds. An estimated 246 Texans were killed by freeze-related causes, according to The Texas Tribune’s reporting on data gathered by the Department of State Health Services. 

Despite the challenges, Catholic groups such as the Hope Border Institute and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are rising to the occasion. 

“We’re working as quickly as possible with our government and NGO partners as well as diverse faith communities to ensure we get people indoors and into safety,” Corbett told CNA. “It’s a challenge for sure, but one we can meet as a community. With hard work and the eyes of faith, this moment can be a Christmas blessing for all of us.” 

On the opposite side of Texas, the Houston Transfer Center, which is run by the archdiocese’s branch of Catholic Charities, is also gearing up for the cold. This archdiocesan initiative is helping migrants with food, medicine, and temporary shelter as they journey to their final destinations. 

“We’re prepared to help migrants who are coming through our Houston Transfer Center whose travel plans may be affected by the winter weather,” Betsy Ballard, communications director at Catholic Charities of Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, told CNA.

As the dangerously cold weather hits Texas, Ballard explained Catholic Charities will not only be helping migrants but also anyone suffering from the freeze.

“We will be able to help families who have been affected by the cold through our services that provide assistance with food, utilities, rent, and other essential needs,” Ballard said.

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