MCALLEN, TX -- Poverty and violence are the two main reasons why undocumented Central American immigrants say they are fleeing their countries to the U.S. at a record pace. But the recent presidential election may also be fueling the surge.
It’s the same drill for two years now. Customs and Border Protection buses unload undocumented immigrants at the McAllen, Texas bus station.
Central American families are instructed to stay together and make a line at the counter to buy a ticket to their final destination.
Elvira Alizama is part of this group of 27. She’s relieved she was able to make it with her 5-year-old son from El Salvador after 22 days of travel, but concerned about what comes next.
“I fear what [Donald Trump] says he’s going to do; to throw out immigrants, that he will close the border. That’s the fear,” she said.
Carmen Castillo also left El Salvador because of the violence there. She’s pregnant and says that the journey to the border wasn’t easy. She learned about Trump’s win halfway through her trip and hesitated whether to continue on.
“I did think about it, but I told myself it would be easier to enter now than later," Castillo said.
After everyone gets their ticket, the families are escorted a few blocks south to the catholic charities shelter where they can bathe, get fresh clothes, and eat while they wait for their departure.
Never has the shelter been this full.
"We’ve gotten well over 300 every day," said Sister Norma Pimentel, the RGV Catholic Charities director.
Sister Norma has run this operation for more than two years and, despite Trump’s promises, she sees no end in sight.
“If you asked them about the elections or the wall or any of this, it’s very possible they may be encouraged by the traffickers to come now. But that’s now, tomorrow it could be something else,” she said. “The reality is that if things don’t change in their country, the violence, the poverty caused by all this violence, it’s not going to change.”
That’s certainly the case for Maria Velasquez. She says she borrowed $8,500 to get to the U.S. with her son after receiving a death threat. She's now pleading with the American government to let her stay.
“It’s hard, and if anyone saw how we’re suffering, maybe they could understand,” Velasquez said.
Although there’s no direct correlation yet that more Central American families are coming because of Donald Trump’s win, it is something that people at the shelter are preparing for especially in these next few months leading to his inauguration.
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