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As more migrant families are released from federal custody, more nonprofits have to step in to help them

“That’s in our hearts to be neighborly and hospitable and especially to be reverent and kind and tender with people who are struggling and suffering."

MISSION, Texas — The Rio Grande Valley is most often not the final destination for migrant families if they are not expelled from the U.S. after crossing the border and are able to stay. The U.S. Border Patrol releases them to non-profits who help with the next steps. There’s been such an increase in the number of families released, that additional help is needed to house them.

Typically, Catholic Charities’ Respite Center in downtown McAllen can handle everyone who comes in needing a place to stay between federal custody and their next destination.

According to Catholic Charities, the Respite Center can house about 1,200 migrants. But there’ve been several days, according to city officials in McAllen, where the number of people coming in has exceeded that.

Father Roy Snipes at Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas was one of the overflow facilities when the Respite Center was full.

“It’s working out very well,” he told KENS 5 on August 4. “That’s in our hearts to be neighborly and hospitable and especially to be reverent and kind and tender with people who are struggling and suffering.”

Father Roy’s church can serve about 300 people at one time.

“They're running from horrible,” he said. “They're doing what we would do if we were in that situation, and we were as courageous and creative as they are.

Emiliano came here with his wife and son from Guatemala. He talked to KENS 5 while handwashing his backpack on the floor outside Father Roy’s church.

“If you look at the long journey we take and how we live in our country, we’re ok,” he said.

Emiliano said he was on his way to join family in Florida.

“My family already found me a job. Once I get there, God willing, I’ll start working next week,” he said. “And work hard. Work hard because that’s why we come.”

KENS 5 talked to Father Roy on Wednesday, August 4. Since then, he paused hosting migrant families for a little over a week, as the church reviews its health protocols in light of COVID infections to ensure sure everyone was safe.

The church told KENS 5 it was also finishing up the construction of showers for families and expected to open back up this coming Monday.

When Father Roy was still welcoming families like Emiliano’s, they’d come to his church by bus at night, spend the night, and left in the morning, back to the Respite Center to move on to their next destination.

Father Roy would offer prayer and blessings.

“I pray that they'll have a beautiful future,” he said. “They deserve it now.”

Catholic Charities tests migrants for COVID when they are released from federal custody. COVID-positive families are taken to Andzalduas park to quarantine.

People who are not sick, are taken to the Respite Center.