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Texas Bus Station Turns Into Unofficial Ellis Island of the South

bus-2523410_640-300x214Thousands of immigrants have made a bus station in South Texas an unofficial Ellis Island in the Lone Star State—that is, a major entry point for foreign nationals to enter the country.

The downtown McAllen bus station now serves as an entry and exit point for immigrants attempting to enter the United States through the Southwest border, the last stop of the journey to cross the border that often takes months.

Those aspiring to enter the country have their work cut out for them. Not only has the Trump administration made every effort to make unlawful immigration difficult, the trip to the border is perilous, with dehydration and hypothermia taking hundreds of casualties. These obstacles, however, have not dissuaded these migrants, most of whom fled their homes in Central America to seek refuge from gang violence, poverty, and other maladies in their home countries.

“In our country, the state of the economy makes it very difficult to live,” recalls a Honduran mother of four. “We’ve seen other cases of people finding success here, so we’re trying as well. This is the idea of immigration – come here and make a change for the better, right?”

Incoming immigrants are, however, met by immigration officials immediately upon arriving at the McAllen station and taken into custody. Those without a criminal record are held in custody for a few days and shortly released with ankle monitors. These serve to track them while their cases go through the rounds in the immigration court system.

The released migrants board government-contracted buses, get off at Central Station downtown, and again board buses that will take most of them to relatives already in the country. Over a hundred at a time go through this routine; around 125 immigrants were released and transported in just one day last week.

These immigrants are no stranger to the widely publicized and decried policy of detaining children separately from their parents. A Guatemalan mother and her 11-year-old daughter were kept in separate holding areas at “La Hielera” or, in English, The Icebox, a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen notorious among immigrants for its frigid temperatures. She explains that she only got to see her daughter an hour each day—just enough time to tell her to be strong and not to cry.

Volunteers from Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provide assistance to immigrants in getting bus tickets and provide them with food, shelter, and contact with their relatives at an immigrant respite center they operate nearby.

If you would like to learn more about the latest updates to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking to enter the country, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.