In an exclusive telephone interview, a staff member shared their observations of the new El Paso migrant processing center with us. El Paso News has agreed not to name the individual because of their work at the facility. The individual, who has previous experience in humanitarian work, provides security services for the facility. They interact with the migrants as they are processed through the facility. The following is a first-hand account of their personal observations at the facility.

The facility, which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened on January 11 in Northeast El Paso complements the existing facility at Hondo Pass. The newest facility is described by the staff member as a “vinyl canvas covered, large metal structure.” The structure has “clear plexiglass” pods for the migrants. The pods contain “prison-type mattresses,” and the facility offers laundry facilities and dining areas.

The lights in the facility are kept on 24-hours a day. Our source described the facility as being “like” a county jail where the migrants are processed. They are frisked and their belongings are searched, including the children, we were told. Once the initial intake is completed, the migrants are allowed to shower and clothing is provided to them. So far, there has not been any “big disturbances” with the migrants. They are “just grateful” to be there. But our source reports that there is an issue of lack of clothing, especially for the children. It is not precisely the lack of clothing, but rather the type of clothing that is needed, they explained.

Couples With Children Separated

Our source told us that at first, the facility kept the mother and father in the families together with the children, but that changed when “conjugal” interactions were observed in the pods. Now the children are kept with the mother and the father is separated from the family.

Most migrants are kept in the facility for about 72 hours before moving on to either a local hotel to continue their journey or to an Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility for further processing, including possible deportation.

The Facility Meals

The migrant facility provides three meals a day, “one hot meal, usually lunch or dinner,” and two cold meals. There are “unlimited” snacks for the children. There are bathrooms available to them, and access to bottled water for the migrants. The snacks include “plenty of fruits,” other snacks and cheeses. The milk offered is 1% milk. However, the milk and cheeses are causing stomach issues for the children.

Dairy Causing Stomach Issues

According to our source, the dairy products seem to be causing stomach issues for the children because the migrants are not used to American dairy products because they “are too processed.” Although the migrants are advised about the potential problem, they still elect to consume the dairy. Our source is not sure if it is because they are hungry or because of the new environment they are in – leading them to consume the dairy products, out of fear, stress, or something else.

Children With Special Needs

In addition to the lack of clothing, it was explained to us that in recent days there have been an influx of children with special needs. “Autistic and non-verbal” children “are showing up” and the facility is not equipped to handle them, we were told. The special needs children do not perform well in a structured environment such as the migrant center, our source explained to us. In addition to the structured environment, there are no staff members trained to address the needs of the children with special needs.

Our source told us that the vendor that provides the services to the facility is looking to recruit individuals qualified to provide services to the children with special needs.

Where Are The Migrants Coming From?

We asked our source if they knew where the migrants are coming from. According to the individual we spoke to, they are seeing from one to three migrants up to groups of 50 at a time arriving at the facility regularly. Our source said they have interacted with individuals from Russia, other Russian-speaking countries, as well Spanish-speaking migrants. In one group, there were about ten Russians in the group, “that appeared to be a family.”

The migrants are not the typical impoverished migrants that some expect to see. Among them are “professionals, like doctors,” they told us.

We asked if they had seen any migrants from the Ukraine. We were told that they “were not sure.”

The Nurse From Columbia

“Mariana,” not her real name, told our source that she is a nurse from Colombia. She arrived with her two children. Like many of the migrants, “Mariana” said that she is seeking a better life. “Mariana” asked our source about how to get her nurse’s certification in the United States so that she could start working. She was being sponsored to come to the country and was waiting to continue her journey to Minneapolis.

“Not All Are Thieves”

Some residents of the Northeast of El Paso have been complaining that their tax dollars shouldn’t be going towards “criminals” or “thieves.” The staffer told us that those complaining about the facility need to know that “not everyone coming in is a criminal.”

Generally, the migrants encountered at the facility are seeking a “better life,” and “better opportunities,” according to those that spoke to our source. Most are fleeing dire conditions from their home countries.

Who Runs The Facility

According to our source, the primary agency in charge of the migrant facility is Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Primary facility staffing is provided by Deployed Services and Deployed Resources. Deployed Services provides security and Deployed Resources provides caregivers and other staffing support to the facility.

Deployed Resources, LLC is based on New York. According to government records, the company has been awarded over $273 million to provide emergency relief services to the federal government.

Our source told us that although CBP is “understaffed” they are doing their job “well.” The facility is housing 30 to 40 individuals on average. They added that the providers at the facility are doing the best they can with the resources that they have. The major issue is the lack of appropriate clothing.

The Drone

According to our source, in recent days a commercial drone has overflown the facility. CBP officers have tried to bring the drone down or locate the operator(s) but have been unsuccessful. There is some speculation among the staff at the facility as to who is behind the drone. Among the names mentioned are Anthony Aguero, a local Republican candidate that recently ran for office or other individuals active in opposing migrants in El Paso. The identity of the drone operator remains unknown, according to our source.

A Call For Non-profits To Help

We asked the individual if there was one thing the community needed to know about the facility. They told us that the most important message we can leave readers with is that the facility needs the local non-profits to step up and help with clothing, especially for children. The facility “needs better support from the non-profit community,” they told us. They added that religious organizations should look at providing religious services at the facility weekly, “or at least once a month.” Since the facility has opened, the individual has not seen any religious services provided to the migrants.

Ellis Island On The Border

Our source asked that readers understand that most of the migrants are “seeking a better life.” They added that the border is “today’s Ellis Island,” which is “now on the border.” “Not everyone coming in is a criminal,” they want the readers to know.

It should be noted that the facility described by our source is one of two processing centers in El Paso. This one is the newer of the two facilities.

Stay with El Paso News for this developing story.

El Paso News wishes to thank our source for agreeing to provide us this inside look at the migrant center. It is individuals like them that allows us to bring you the stories no one else does.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...