But acting on that call is a daily challenge for border residents like Reynolds, who fears many of the migrants who will come will not be able to find the help and care they are hoping for.
“It’s going to impact the city greatly, and also those coming over,” she said. “I don’t think the city is prepared to receive them. Yes, there are shelters in place, there are different federal, local, and state help in place, but it’s not enough.”
Though many migrants come across genuinely looking for a better life, it is impossible to differentiate these from criminals and cartel members looking to take advantage of others’ generosity.
Raul Cruz, who has spent significant amounts of time at the border as a volunteer with national humanitarian aid group United Cajun Navy, told CNA that some residents who have offered a helping hand have been taken advantage of.
“I was talking to a gentleman a little while ago, he’s a property owner [in Reynosa], he’s trying to help out these immigrants by letting them stay on his property, but even he said, ‘You know what, I try to give them water, I try to do stuff for them, but if I don’t watch it, they’ll steal my broom, they’ll steal my sandals, they’ll steal anything that’s there,’” shared Cruz. “That’s just that one person, and he’s trying to help them out and they’re still stealing from him.”
In large part, these communities along the border are primarily Hispanic, majority Catholic, and though they have by in large responded with incredible generosity, they are by no means wealthy.
The median household income in El Paso, one of the largest cities on the southern border and one of those most heavily impacted by the migrant crisis, is about $51,000, well below the national average household income, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This is one of the poorest sectors of the United States,” Father Raphael Garcia, an El Paso parish priest, told CNA.
Despite the region’s relative poverty, Garcia said, “I think it’s very much part of the people’s DNA, it’s part of the people’s consciousness that migration is a reality and that family separation is painful, and so I think the people here are very much aware and sensitive and very welcoming to people who are migrating and fleeing violence and injustice.”
Garcia told CNA that his parish, Sacred Heart in downtown El Paso, responded to the need by opening a migrant shelter last December.
Though it can house about 120, Sacred Heart made headlines last Monday, as a viral video showed hundreds of migrants camping out all around the church. The shelter has been regularly filled over capacity with around 1,200 arriving at its doors when the video was taken.
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“When we’ve had these large numbers, we’ve focused on [sheltering] women and children, we just cannot help everybody,” Garcia said.
With the dramatic rise in border crossings has come an increase in human trafficking as well.
Steven Bansbach, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), told CNA that “over the past year [border authorities] coordinated the largest surge of resources and disruptive activities against human smuggling networks in recent memory.”
“CBP is targeting and disrupting transnational criminal organizations and smugglers who take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants,” Bansbach said. “Smuggling organizations are abandoning migrants in remote and dangerous areas, leading to a rise in the number of rescues CBP is asked to perform.”
“When migrants cross the border illegally, they put their lives in peril,” Bansbach added.