El Paso migrant crisis is humanitarian crisis

On Dec. 16, 2022, migrants gather in downtown El Paso, Texas. Many shelters were overcrowded, forcing migrants to live on the streets. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

On Dec. 16, 2022, migrants gather in downtown El Paso, Texas. Many shelters were overcrowded, forcing migrants to live on the streets. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Mia Badillo, Co-Editor-in-Chief

During the last months of 2022, El Paso, Texas, a city on the border between Mexico and the United States, experienced an extreme uptick in migrant encounters as Title 42 was set to end on Dec. 21.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have utilized Title 42 as a public health law to turn away migrants attempting to cross the southern border into the United States. 

According to El Paso Matters, from October through November 2022, the El Paso sector of Border Patrol reported more than 106,560 migrant encounters, an increase of 261% over the same period in 2021.

Two days before the expiration of Title 42, Republican state attorneys general from 19 states urged the Supreme Court to extend the law’s deadline to at least February 2023.  

As a country, we are ultimately denying asylum seekers the opportunity to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

Fortunately, many of my fellow El Pasoans are working diligently to ensure that asylum seekers are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their situation.

The bottom line is that migrant rights are human rights, and it is every El Pasoan’s responsibility to be an upstander by combating the stigma against migrants.

Real “migrant crisis” 

When I watch the news, it is evident that the migrants are being dehumanized by people in power who use their platforms to spread harmful misinformation and stereotypes. 

In certain mass media outlets, I have seen migrants referred to as illegal aliens, rapists, and every other sickening label in between. 

During a time when we heavily rely on the media to give us information, how can we accept these sources and morally accept these erroneous claims as true?

Nicole Reulet, Director of Marketing at The Rescue Mission of El Paso, said, “Many migrants come from third world countries and simply don’t know how to navigate a website, purchase tickets online, have never flown before, have never seen a paved road before, etc. 

Many migrants are also severely traumatized from their journeys here; to get here, (the migrants are) either robbed, raped, or ransomed, or all three by the time (they) get to the U.S.

Many have seen their loved ones abused or killed in front of them, many mothers have miscarried or lost their infant children along the way due to the extreme conditions they’re put through by human traffickers.”

The experiences that Reulet describes are seldom discussed on the news.

Organizations like The Rescue Mission of El Paso are doing their part to combat misinformation and get the migrants the help they need.

By listening to the migrants’ stories, we need to identify that the real problem behind all of this controversy is that privileged people in power have the ability to become fearmongers.

In reality, these fearmongers are much more dangerous to society than the migrants ever were or ever will be. 

They want us to prevent “dangerous” individuals from entering America when the real danger already exists and thrives inside our country. 

Whose problem is it?

Some people believe that ordinary citizens should not be held responsible for assisting migrants.

We see videos and images on the internet of migrants sleeping on the streets and decide to turn a blind eye by deciding that it doesn’t affect us.

However, I believe that this “migrant crisis” is more of a human rights and moral issue than it is of people attempting to seek asylum. 

Choosing to ignore the mistreatment of migrants emphasizes the privilege of indifference. 

Therefore, I believe it is every individual’s responsibility to defend the oppressed. 

Helping humanity

Thankfully, there are members of the El Paso community who are setting the standard of respect and compassion toward the migrants.

I believe the following organizations emphasize that the term “El Paso Strong” applies to uniting all members of the community, whether they are originally from here or not.

  • El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

EPFHFB is working tirelessly to provide food for the migrants.

They supply food to their partners, such as Sacred Heart Church, so that they can cook the food and distribute hot meals.

EPFHFB has “Street Feeding” teams that distribute blankets, sack lunches, and water to migrants living on the streets. 

Lonnie Valencia, Director of Communications and Marketing at El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, said, “El Pasoans Fighting Hunger’s mission is to combat hunger in our area… ‘because no one should go hungry!’

 I think many people forget the ‘no one’ part of our mission statement, and some start to put their limitations on its meaning. 

‘No One’ means no one.

 Food is a basic necessity for everyone, and the food bank will not stop serving our communities until hunger is no more, including the migrants here in the Borderland.”

I applaud EPFHFB for consistently providing food for the migrants, regardless of their current situation or status. 

With limited volunteers and resources, they get the job done by putting in a tremendous amount of effort every day of the year. 

In fact, according to KFOX 14, EPFHFB was ranked as the nation’s 73rd-largest charity by Forbes.

Scoring perfectly in the fundraising efficiency and charitable commitment categories, I acknowledge that this honor is a testament to the dedication and charity of EPFHFB’s staff and volunteers.

  • Rescue Mission of El Paso

The Rescue Mission of El Paso is providing migrants with the necessities to continue on their journey with the best possible chance of success. 

They are giving the migrants resources such as food, bedding, toiletries, restrooms, showers, laundry machines, and a voucher to visit a clothing closet. 

Additionally, Nurse Janie Laca, R.N., works at the Rescue Mission to care for ill migrants. 

After providing the migrants with these essentials, the Rescue Mission helps them plan the next step on their journey. 

Reulet said, “This situation is not easy on anyone involved, however, complaining about the current circumstance will not change the fact that there are migrants who are already here in our city and in need.

The more our citizens step up and play a role in helping the migrants, the more people we can move through and out of El Paso and onto their final destination instead of them being stuck in El Paso and using up our resources.”

I think Reulet makes an excellent observation as to why El Pasoans may feel more inclined to support the migrants. 

Reulet said, “I personally have family members that have gone through the immigration process so I know how tedious and stressful the process is as I’m sure most El Pasoans understand too. 

When El Pasoans look at the migrants, I hope they see their cousins, aunts, grandparents, etc.”
The Rescue Mission continues to serve the migrants by providing them with many resources and the most important gift of all: the opportunity to create a better life. 

Getting involved

As we praise these organizations for making a difference in our community, we must follow in their footsteps.

Food, clothes, medicine, and other necessities are always in high demand for the migrants. 

Valencia said, “Volunteer, donate, advocate. 

Donate your time; You don’t have to commit to a full day, just a couple of hours of your time is enough. 

Donate money; It doesn’t have to be a lot. For every dollar donated, we can provide seven meals.

Help get the word out there.”

We must realize that making a difference and helping the migrants doesn’t have to involve strenuous activities or huge amounts of money. 

Showing support can be educating yourself and others, along with listening to the stories of the migrants.

Reulet said, “If you speak Spanish, we welcome you to come and sit and listen to their stories. 

We’ve seen that a significant number of migrants, mostly women, want to share their experiences and talk about their traumas with someone. 

Write letters of encouragement to shelters that are housing migrants so we can show the migrants that they are thought of fondly and with love.”

Angels at work 

Students from El Paso Catholic Schools drop off donated clothes at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless. The clothing drive was organized by Fulfilling a Need. Photo courtesy of Mia White

Students from El Paso Catholic Schools drop off donated clothes at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless. The clothing drive was organized by Fulfilling a Need. Photo courtesy of Mia White

Loretto Academy senior, Mia White, founded Fulfilling a Need, an organization dedicated to assisting local non-profits.  

With contributions from Catholic schools in El Paso such as Loretto, Cathedral, and St. Joseph’s, Fulfilling a Need donated over one thousand clothing items to Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

Additionally, as the president of Loretto’s Women Empowering Women club, White is organizing a canned food drive at school to provide food for the migrants.

White said, “It is important to help the community on behalf of a religion-based school that has the values of Faith, Community, Justice, and Respect.

To act on these values, we must further dive into the meaning of giving back to our community in any way that we can.”

I am grateful that these organizations are not only doing their part to help the migrants but are also wonderfully representing our El Paso community. 

We can all learn a thing or two from people who put others before themselves and treat everyone with equal respect and kindness.

At the end of the day, it comes down to our willingness to help each other for the betterment of our community.

I can only hope that these incredible organizations and individuals can inspire every one of us to promote human rights for migrants. 

After all, we are all just human beings worthy of an opportunity to succeed in life.