Zero tolerance policy to affect RGV respite center that helps immigrant families

‘Only reason we're here is because there's a family we can help,' Pimentel says

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

MCALLEN, Texas - As pressure builds to end family separations at the border, the new zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration is ramping up. 

New arrivals are met with applause when they get to the Catholic Charities’ respite center in McAllen, especially now.

The families arriving to the center are the last that are still being released. That will change once the government has more facilities to handle a larger number of families.

When the government has enough facilities, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, every adult will be detained and every child separated.

The changes will affect Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the respite center, and every family she tries to help.

“The only reason we're here is because there's a family we can help, and if we can't help the family, we're not here,” Pimentel said.

A mother of two from El Salvador who wears a government-issued ankle bracelet said she fears for the families still to come.

“We must ask God to not let it happen,” the woman said in Spanish.

Manuel Padilla, Rio Grande Valley sector chief for the Border Patrol, said he has to consider the overall problem.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of families crossing over after a federal court said the government cannot detain them, not even fraudulent families.

“Just to make sure they come under the radar, if you will, as a family unit, because they'll be released,” Padilla said.

Padilla said children are being put at risk on the journey across the border.

“To do nothing, in my opinion, is immoral,” he said.

Many of the immigrants have said that even the risk of family separation is better than what they left behind.

“They fear for the lives of their kids joining gangs and being killed,” Pimentel said.

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