Adam Rosenbloom wasn't able to view fireworks from Auditorium Shores this past Independence Day. His Fourth of July weekend was less conventional.
Rosenbloom, a pediatrician at Dell Children’s Medical Center, spent the weekend volunteering at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas. Rosenbloom joined other volunteering with the group Circle of Health International, caring for over 50 patients and delivering over $5,000 worth of supplies to Central American children and families who crossed the Texas-Mexico border.
“Sometimes this is the first kindness that they have found in weeks or months, and I think to show them that welcome here in the United States, I think, is a form of patriotism,” he says.
The center, along with another in Brownsville, was initiated by the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in response to the growing number of immigrant families arriving daily at the McAllen and Brownsville bus stations.
Most of the families arrive at the border hoping to travel further into the United States to join family members. U.S. Border Patrol releases many of the families at bus stations with tickets to appear in court after they reach their destination, according to Rosenbloom. The center at Sacred Hope acts as a temporary refuge for the travelers who have still yet to reach their destinations.
Rosenbloom says families from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua typically suffer from hunger and malnutrition — along with rashes and even neurological problems like seizures and developmental delay — which, Rosenbloom says, are products of their long journeys. He says many of the families travel by bus where close quarters easily spread disease. Those who cannot afford the bus travel by foot, where exposure to the elements increases.
Rosenbloom partially attributes a rise in unaccompanied minors crossing the border to instances of children becoming separated from their parents during the journey. He also says the severity of the migration could also play a role. “One story was of children whose mother just dropped dead along the way,” he says. “They were left by themselves to keep going.”
He says volunteers at Sacred Heart were unable to get access to the unaccompanied minors held in McAllen.
Martin Garza, a pediatrician from Edinburg, Texas, helps oversee the center at Sacred Heart and recruit volunteers. He says that in a nine-hour period, the number of families attended to by volunteers can range from 30 to as high as 80. Asked what the most important needs of the center are, he mentions over-the-counter medications such as creams, ointments, and cough and cold remedies. One of the most important needs he says is people willing to help.
“A long term project like this, you can never have too many volunteers,” he says.
Garza hopes for the center at Sacred Heart to remain an option for immigrant families going forward. County officials have said the church as well as the center in Brownsville could be used as shelters for the next three to six months.
Circle of Health International says they'll head back to the border again around Labor Day.