DEL RIO, Texas — U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Del Rio Sector have arrested more than 36,000 people since October of last year, and the number continues to rise every day.
In the City of Del Rio, officials said at least 100 migrants a day are coming to the city. The smaller border town is now trying to determine how to deal with the immigration crisis, something they’ve never before seen.
Robert Balboa works as a manager at a ranch that runs along two miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The property begins where the border fence ends.
Balboa said he sees people every day trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico to enter the United States.
“I’ll be out here, and you’ll see them walking around just looking, waiting for a time to cross,” he said.
Balboa said the number of people he sees crossing has increased in the last few months.
“Before they would hide from us, and come at night and now they’re just crossing during the day, pretty much whenever they want,” Balboa said.
Balboa said he’s seen drivers come to pick-up the migrants leaving from the ranch.
But, what about the others who don’t have somewhere to go when they come into Del Rio?
According to county officials, at least 100 migrants are arriving in Del Rio each day, flown in from the Rio Grande Valley to Laughlin Air Force Base once they’ve been released from processing centers.
In addition, more migrants are being released from processing centers in Del Rio and Comstock with no way to move on to their next destination.
The Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition has formed in Del Rio and set up a transition center to help the migrants.
Tiffany Zook is the Secretary of the coalition and volunteers at the center daily.
“If we weren’t here, there would be people in the streets not being able to care for their children,” Zook said. “It would just be a pileup of people.”
She said the idea to form the coalition came when Border Patrol Agents reached out to the faith-based community in Del Rio, expressing their need for help.
“We’re in close partnership with our Border Patrol,” Zook said. “They care just as much about the people and the community as we do. So when they said we need help, it was an easy answer.”
Zook said at least 100 people a day come to the transition center where volunteers give them food, water, clothing and other necessities.
"All we can do is plant seeds and hope that they take bloom wherever they’re going," Zook said. .
They also help the migrants get in touch with their sponsor, often a family member or friend, who then pays for their fare to take them to the next destination.
“We don’t spend any money on tickets,” she added.
The Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition Center is run solely on donations, and Zook said she’s uncertain if that funding will be sustainable.
“People get donor fatigue, and we’ll probably see a decrease in donations, but the more people that learn about our center and what we’re doing, I’m hoping that not even just in Del Rio, people will want to get involved."
County Judge Lewis Owens has the same concern about sustainable funding.
“We are torn between spending money and not spending money,” Owens said. “It’s just it’s unbelievable what we’re dealing with. They’re coming from everywhere and I don’t understand how we’re going to be able to sustain this in our county. It’s just not possible."
Along with the county commissioners, Owens said they decided to postpone discussion on using county funding to help the migrants move on to their next destination.
“If it was me waving a magic wand, and I don’t want to go in the transportation business, but I would bring that to the court and take a vote on buying some buses just to make sure they don’t stay in our county,” he said.
Owens said the county is trying to persuade bus companies to donate to the Coalition and help the migrants with bus fares.
However, he said, in the end it’s the federal government who created the influx of migrants, and now they need to find a solution.
“ I don’t know how the hell this became our problem. If our federal representatives would do their job, we wouldn’t be having this problem,” said Owens.
For now, the county funding is at a standstill, and the coalition said they welcome donations, supplies and volunteers.
And in the meantime, Balboa will be watching the migrants cross into the U.S. every day as he works at the ranch.
“They’re passing daily, but we just keep on trying not to bother them, and they don’t bother us,”he said.
For information on how to donate or volunteer at the Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition, follow this link.