BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — When asylum-seekers were first turned away under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program in 2019, a group of volunteers started Team Brownsville to help those trying to immigrate to the United States.
Ever since, the nonprofit organization has worked both sides of the Rio Grande, helping asylum-seekers stranded in Mexico, and those who are legally released by the Department of Homeland Security north of border, as they make a new life in America.
Team Brownsville is a respected and well-known organization that receives donations from across the globe.
Volunteers also are credited by migrant advocates for being able to change with the times, as they have adapted to new border security policies enacted over the years, as well as the changing demographics of asylum-seekers.
Andrea Rudnik, a Team Brownsville volunteer recently told Border Report that they have seen an increase in adult migrants coming from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua this summer.
About 200 to 300 migrants predominantly from these countries are being released daily by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers near the downtown bus station in Brownsville, Texas.
Team Brownsville has special permission from federal and city officials to assist the migrants in what is called the Portillo Building, across from the bus station.
Reporters aren’t allowed inside, but that’s where volunteers provide migrants with backpacks full of toiletries, blankets, food and clothes.
They also help them to make travel arrangements, most often on buses that depart frequently from this Gulf Coast border town headed to cities north.
“We’re all about meeting the needs as people come across. We’re there,” Rudnik said.
“We also work very closely with immigration attorneys. So, people who are processed for humanitarian parole that come across, we provide whatever services they need. Sometimes the person has a disability, sometimes they have a child with special needs. So we are there to meet those needs. Sometimes we buy a stroller or a car seat or a ticket to New York. It really just depends on the person,” Rudnik said.
Rudnik said she and her team were relieved to learn earlier this week that the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally called Migrant Protection Protocols, was legally ended by a judge.
But Rudnik recognizes that the work is far from over as Texas and Missouri fight to have the policy restarted.
They also want Title 42 to be lifted. The public health mandate has been in place since 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus and it prevents migrants from crossing to claim asylum.
“It’s not going to change anything for the NGOs who are working here in the Valley because we have thousands of people waiting in Reynosa and Matamoros are waiting to request asylum and they’re not in MPP but they’re waiting for Title 42 to lift so that they can cross the bridge and legally request asylum,” Rudnik said.
Reynosa, a dangerous northern Mexican border town just directly south of McAllen, Texas, is where thousands of migrants, predominantly from Haiti, are waiting, Border Report has been told by several NGOs.
The migrants currently crossing from the border town of Matamoros into Brownsville who are being legally paroled into the United States as their immigration proceedings process are from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — countries where the United States has a tough time convincing local leaders to allow the U.S. to repatriate migrants back to their homelands.
CBP reported over 207,000 encounters with migrants on the Southwest border in June, with total encounters so far this fiscal year at 1.7 million.