Rio Grande Valley Becomes Hot Spot in Immigration Battle

Tempers hit a boiling point Saturday outside of the Border Patrol station in McAllen, when protesters saw a bus full of migrant families trying to drive by. The demonstrators gathered in the streets and blocked traffic.

The demonstrators gathered in the streets and blocked traffic.

“Our job is to keep the road clear, that’s all we care about,” a McAllen police officer said. “This is a public roadway.”

Sitting in the middle of the street and holding a megaphone, leading chants in Spanish, was Domingo Garcia. He’s the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens chapter in Dallas.

Things got heated Saturday outside the border patrol station in McAllen, when a bus full of migrant families tried to pass by a League of United Latin American Citizens rally against the separation of children from their parents.

“They’re asking you to leave, but you don’t want to go,?” NBC 5 asked.

“Not yet,” Garcia said. “We are trying to prevent child abuse.”

The protesters clearly outnumbered police. Their standoff lasted more than 15 minutes.

“Everybody can not be on the roadway,” yelled another officer.

While some prayed, others chanted, “Set the children free!”

Things eventually settled down.

More police officers and Border Patrol agents arrived, some of them carrying paintball guns.

The bus was forced to back up and take a different route.

For the protesters, standing in solidarity, sent a loud message.

“I think it’s important that we stand up for these children,” Garcia said. “Get the children reunited with their parents. It’s terrible and horrific that in the United States, in 2018, children are being taken from their mothers.”

A few hours later, 152 people walked from a bus stop to a humanitarian center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

Mothers and fathers, with their children in tow, all of them processed together, by the Border Patrol.

“We’re starting to see more families are staying together, which is good,” said Sister Norma, who runs the humanitarian center.

NBC 5 was not allowed to talk to the families.

Sister Norma said most of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The center relies solely on donations.

Sister Norma said she guessed it costs $50,000 a month to operate.

Volunteers at the center will give everyone a meal, new clothes and medical attention, if needed.

Then they’re free to go find their family and friends, who are already in the United States, as their immigration case continues.

Some of the adults were wearing Border Patrol ankle monitors.

“They were detained, put in the processing center, which is part of the detention center, and because of maybe, capacity or circumstances of that particular family unit, they can continue onto another point in the United States,” Sister Norma said.

McAllen has become the epicenter of the immigration battle.

Emotions are running high, as families try to navigate what’s next.