Photos: Reynosa migrant shelter expands as volunteers try to get asylum-seekers off downtown streets

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Over 1,000 asylum seekers are living at an expanded migrant shelter, Senda de Vida Ministry, in the dangerous border town of Reynosa, Mexico, as see in this Oct. 4, photo. Renovations are being made by migrant aid workers from Texas and Mexico. (Photo by Team Brownsville)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Over 1,000 migrants are now safely living at a church-run migrant shelter, and volunteers are working to help more families to get off the downtown plaza in the dangerous northern Mexican border town of Reynosa, Border Report has learned.

Volunteers with the nonprofit organization Team Brownsville have partnered with several migrant aid organizations that have donated tents, clothes, blankets, expensive water filtration systems and helped put up a giant overhead shade structure to help asylum-seeking families who have been stuck across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, due to coronavirus border restrictions.

The expansion has occurred in the past few weeks at the Senda de Vida Ministry, a faith-based nonprofit that used to house just 300 migrants. Now it has an expansive outdoor back area where several hundred more tents are now located, Team Brownsville Volunteer Coordinator Andrea Rudnik to Border Report on Tuesday.

Several nonprofit organizations have contributed to expand food service areas, put a concrete base, a shade roof and other amenities at the Senda de Vida migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, as seen on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photos by Team Brownsville)

Team Brownsville is the nonprofit that spearheaded donation and food services for asylum-seekers living in Matamoros, Mexico when the Trump administration implemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy. And although geographically Reynosa is over an hour drive from Brownsville, Rudnik says they are working to help migrants who have been turned back by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents due to Title 42 border restrictions, and those who find themselves in Reynosa with no place to sleep and little means.

“We’re some distance away from Reynosa, so we can’t have a daily presence in Reynosa, but we are working through other NGOs to fund projects to provide funding for projects,” Rudnik said.

Projects include upgrades to the bathrooms at the shelter, adding doors on toilet stalls, improving water piping and expanding a clothes-washing area.

“All things that need to get done and will provide people a measure of more dignity,” Rudnik said.

Andrea Rudnik, a volunteer with the nonprofit Team Brownsville, visited with migrant children on Oct. 4, 2021, at a shelter Senda de Vida, which her organization has helped to expand and provide a concrete base to prevent flooding and shade structure for tents. (Team Brownsville Photo)

A $75,000 water filtration system that had been used at the Matamoros encampment also has been transferred to Senda de Vida and is helping to supply drinking water, she added.

And perhaps the most welcome amenity is a sunshade that has been placed over the tents, which now all are situated on a concrete base to prevent rainwater runoff and flooding.

“We wanted to fund projects that would have some lasting impact for asylum-seeking people,” Rudnik said.

The expansion at Senda de Vida migrant center in Reynosa, Mexico, includes a clothes drying and cellphone charging stations, as well as expensive water filtration systems. (Team Brownsville Photos)

Volunteers from groups like Angry Tias and Abuelas and Solidarity Engineering have been helping to renovate and expand and add more amenities for the migrants at the shelter.

They also work to send donations to the 1,500 asylum-seekers who still live in the downtown plaza.

Migrants on April 26, 2021, crowd into the downtown plaza in Reynosa, Mexico. (Photo by Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers)

The migrants on the plaza are now a mixture of Central Americans from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as Haitians, many of whom recently came in caravans from Panama, and more currently en route.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, recently met with Mexican immigration officials who gave her a tour of other possible locations within Reynosa for the migrant encampment.

Pimentel told Border Report on Tuesday “we are trying to finalize” a location.

The Biden administration announced that land travel restrictions will be lifted on Nov. 8 and land ports of entry open to vaccinated travelers.

However, officials with the Department of Homeland Security have told Border Report that Title 42 restrictions will remain in place for migrants who attempt to cross the border at places other than legal ports of entry, and they will not be allowed into the United States under this public health law.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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