Border Patrol now releasing migrant families at San Bernardino Greyhound, more than 150 miles from border

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
By Paul Martin

Rebecca Plevin
May 22, 2019

On Monday evening, a U.S. Border Patrol van pulled up to the Greyhound bus station in San Bernardino, more than 150 miles north of the California-Mexico border. Elias Cordoba, a subsistence farmer from Guatemala, along with his 7-year-old daughter Demi, climbed out of the van. After traveling through Mexico, crawling under a wire fence at the border and being detained by immigration officials for more than two days, they had reached the latest stop in their long journey to Stamford, Conn., where they would reunite with Cordoba’s aunt.

For months, Border Patrol agents have struggled to process a record number of asylum-seeking Central American families. The surge in migrants has had a cascading effect: Instead of turning people over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol agents have dropped off families at shelters in the Coachella Valley. When those facilities are full, agents have released people at the Greyhound station in Indio.

But last week, the Indio station started selling out of tickets, so agents started transporting people further north, through the remote California desert and the Coachella Valley, to the San Bernardino bus station. The migrants’ arrival, in turn, has spurred immigrant advocates and faith leaders in the Inland Empire to mobilize a rapid response to the situation.

Over the past week, volunteers with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, which is comprised of about 35 Inland Empire organizations serving the immigrant community, have met nearly 400 people — including Cordoba and his daughter Demi — at the station, provided them with clothing, food and shelter, and helped them book bus or plane tickets so they can reunite with relatives across the country.

During the journey and in detention, Cordoba said he thought to himself, “I shouldn’t have come here.” But in San Bernarndino, the coalition made him feel welcome. “They’ve helped us a lot,” he said.

The Inland Coalition has rapidly built a hub for the migrant families: After arriving at the bus station, volunteers transport the families to an office for processing. While coalition members call peoples’ relatives across the country, to help coordinate plane or bus travel for the migrants, families can rifle through piles of donated clothing, collect toiletries and get a warm meal. Most sleep at a Catholic church that has capacity for 50; when that fills up, the coalition puts people up at a motel near the bus station.

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