Christmas Day migrant drop off: ICE leaves at least 100 migrants in city's downtown

Aaron Martinez

EL PASO, Texas – About 100 migrants were dropped off Christmas Day in Downtown El Paso by immigration authorities.

The migrants were dropped off in the afternoon and were being temporarily housed at the former Rock House Cafe and Gallery, 400 W Overland Ave., said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute.

"ICE gave us a heads up about an hour or two ago that we were going to get 200 folks Downtown," Corbett said. "This group right now is about 100, so we don't know if we are going to get another 100 or if this is it for the day."

The migrants are getting food and water as they wait for their buses to take them to their sponsors, Corbett said. They will stay with their sponsors as their asylum cases remain pending.

More: ICE drops off hundreds of migrants at Downtown El Paso bus station; shelters scramble

Juana Juan Diego said she left Guatemala City 20 days ago with her 1-year-old daughter, Dulce Juan Diego, as they sit outside the former Rock House Cafe and Gallery at Leon Street and Overland Avenue on Christmas Day. She was one of a group of 100 immigrants dropped off there by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She hopes to travel to Tennessee where she has relatives, she said. She has a baggage-check tag on her backpack from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Right now, we are trying to find them space for the night," Corbett said. "A place where they can sleep, make phone calls to their contacts or relatives in other parts of the country. Most of these folks are on route to another part of the country. They are not staying here in El Paso. They want to go to their sponsor or family members in other parts of the country. They just need a place for the night."

While shelter has been found for the 100 people dropped off Christmas afternoon, Corbett said, the search continues for places to stay for any other migrants who might be left Downtown later.

Juana Juan Diego and her 1-year-old daughter, Dulce, who has been sick with diarrhea and headaches, were part of the group dropped off in Downtown on Tuesday afternoon.

She said they traveled for 20 days from Guatemala City on foot. They made the trip due to no jobs in her country, she said.

She said that they had nothing to eat during the journey to the U.S.

"It has been very difficult," Juan Diego said in Spanish.

The mother and daughter are heading to Tennessee to stay with relatives.

Another woman, Senaida Areli Deras Villeda, and her 3-year-old daughter, Francisca Dayani Portillo, traveled from Honduras to the U.S.

Jose Manuel Perez of Guatemala plays with his son, Sancer Perez, 9, outside the former Rock House Café and Gallery at Leon Street and Overland Avenue. Perez said they left Guatemala 12 days ago and plan to travel to Atlanta to join relatives there.

Villeda said she and her daughter are trying to go Tennessee to meet her husband.

Corbett said the group has been checked and none of the migrants needed medical attention.

On Christmas morning, an ill 8-year-old Guatemalan boy in the custody of the Border Patrol died at a hospital

Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia said the nonprofit organization that helps immigrants expected to receive about 200 migrants in all on Christmas Day. Another 500 migrants are expected both Wednesday and Thursday.

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Garcia added no information has been released as to what time or at which location U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will leave the migrants.

The announcement of the expected arrival of more than 1,200 migrants in the next few days comes after hundreds of migrants were dropped off at the Downtown El Paso Greyhound bus station over the weekend and on Monday.

“By the end of the week, we are expected to have received more than 2,000 migrants,” Garcia said.

U.S. Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, called the government's action "unacceptable.”

“I have a number of concerns,” Escobar said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “CBP back in 2016 used to create temporally holding facilities that were humane, safe and clean, so that migrants during times of a surge wouldn’t be left on the street. Federal law enforcement has long collaborated with the Annunciation House, so they know exactly what the capacity is here in the community.”

Federal law enforcement officials said the reason they no longer create temporary housing was because “it was too difficult,” Escobar said.

“If they are able to create tent cities to jail children, then they should absolutely be able to construct the same kind of facilities as they did in 2016 to assist the migrants,” Escobar said.

"The federal government needs to step up and dumping people out on the streets is not stepping up,” Escobar said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials dropped off about 200 migrants Sunday at the Greyhound bus station at 200 W. San Antonio Ave.

On Christmas Eve, small groups were left at the station throughout the day and night. More than 200 migrants were left at the bus station Monday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could not be reached for comment due to the federal government shut down. The shutdown has all employees in nonessential positions, such as some public affairs positions, unable to work.

Garcia said Annunciation House and community members are working to find shelter for the migrants.

Community members seeking to help the migrants are asked to bring prepared meals and fruits.

Information on where to drop off the prepared meals can be obtained by emailing Annunciation House at refugees@annunciationhouse.org.

Fruit donations, including apples, oranges and bananas, can be left at Annunciation House, 1003 E San Antonio Ave.

Follow Aaron Martinez on Twitter: @AMartinez31

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Christmas Day migrant drop off: ICE leaves at least 100 migrants in city's downtown