EAGLE PASS, Texas – Given a choice, when offered a free bus ride to Washington, D.C. or New York City, Valeria wheeler, executive director of Mission: Border Hope, said asylum seekers almost always say, “Yes!”
Wheeler said especially since she’s heard the buses make stops along the nearly two-day journey, closer to where the asylum seekers have family members or sponsors.
“Not all of them have their final destination in the East Coast,” Wheeler said. “Some of them go to North Carolina or Atlanta.”
They are among the nearly 8,000 others who Gov. Greg Abbott has sent to the East Coast in response to the record number of illegal crossings at the Texas border.
“Now, the rest of America is understanding exactly what is going on,” Abbott said.
Wheeler said Mission: Border Hope typically sees a hundred people daily who are legally allowed to stay in the U.S. while they await their asylum hearings. They arrive in a U.S. Border Patrol bus. Recently, she said there were 900 people there.
However, Wheeler said her nonprofit and the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition try not to send a lot of people at one time.
“We never want to create chaos or issues in other cities,” Wheeler said.
However, the mayors of New York City and Washington, D.C. have said their cities are struggling to keep up with the new arrivals.
Wheeler said if they have no family or sponsors who can take them, “We share realistic expectations with the asylum seekers. We tell them the truth, what is happening.”
The shelters up there are overcrowded, she tells them, so if they decide to take the free bus ride, “and they don’t have a place to go, they might have to sleep on the streets.”
Even then, having risked their lives over hundreds of miles to come this far, Wheeler said, “They really want to go, to move forward, to continue their journey.”
Especially if they no resources left to get on a bus or plane, Wheeler said a free bus ride is an opportunity they can’t pass up.
“We really tell them that if they need to wait for something, wait with us,” Wheeler said, especially for families.
At least at Mission: Border Hope she said they have food and shelter.
But still, Wheeler said many are willing to take their chances.
“It’s a better option for them to go. They think that,” she said.