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Fewer patients at COVID quarantine site for migrants in RGV

Having run out of options, Hidalgo County started using a public park to isolate COVID-positive migrants. The temp facility is still in place, but with fewer people.

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas — At its busiest, the COVID quarantine site for migrants at Anzalduas Park in Hidalgo County, fluctuated between 800 to 1500 people. That was at the end of August 2021.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has been serving people here the entire time.

“We were getting a lot of families that were testing positive, even though it was a small number percentage wise, it was a lot of them, because the numbers were so high back in June, July, August,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs Catholic Charites of RGV. “The numbers are not that high anymore as we saw them last summer.”

Not every migrant at the Anzalduas park temporary facility then or now was sick. The overall numbers were higher because, officials said, families were able to stay together, even if only one of them were sick.

The numbers of migrants at Anzalduas park are lower now, Pimentel told KENS 5, as her organization is seeing fewer people released from Border Patrol into the country.

“We see maybe 200 - 300 daily, in comparison to 1000 or more,” Pimentel said. “Those testing positive also are much less even. A lot of it has to do that many of them already with the vaccine arriving right now, from their country. They've been already protected.”

Those who are positive stay at the park, Pimentel said. People who test negative are taken to the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen and move on to other parts of the country from there.

How long the Anzalduas park facility will remain in place, meaning the park being closed to the public, is unclear, as immigration policies that affect people who come here are in flux.

“This setup is in place until we can figure out how things are moving forward,” Pimentel said.

December 2, the U.S. government announced it is restarting the Trump-era program that forces asylum seekers to stay in Mexico waiting for their American court date. The policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocol or MPP was shut down by President Joe Biden. The administration and human rights advocates have called MPP inhumane. But a court order forced its reinstatement.

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