Those who help migrants at the border believe immigration has become too politicized

Gabriel Pacheco
Posted at 3:00 AM, Feb 10, 2022

HOLTVILLE, Calif. — HOLTVILLE, Calif. — Republicans are expected to highlight the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as they seek to take back Congress in the midterm elections.

Last year, Border Patrol encountered nearly 2 million migrants trying to cross into the U.S. illegally. So, how many have been sent back? How many remain? And who is in charge of taking care of the people who stay?


As the country debates immigration, it's important to remember that people die trying to come to the U.S.

One example is in Holtville, California, about 10 miles from the border.

A roadside memorial has been set up honoring the lives of 13 migrants who were being smuggled in a car and died in a vehicle crash last year. Crosses and names are now reminders of the dangerous journey.

Another important reminder is less than a mile from the memorial. A "John and Jane Doe" cemetery has been set up for the remains of unidentified migrants whose bodies were found near the southern border.


Remembering those lost is important in context when discussing the migrant surge.

Last year there were a record 1.9 million arrests by border patrol, While some tried to cross multiple times, around 1 million were immediately expelled. The others, approximately 400,000, await hearings in court and are permitted to stay in the U.S.


If a migrant apprehended by Border Patrol is processed and the U.S. doesn't send them back to Mexico or their home country right away, they can stay in the country until their hearing.

In many cases, the first places they go are to makeshift shelters.

In the Holtville area, a local hotel near a public golf course has been converted into a shelter.

"This is the Catholic Charities donation room," said Roy Mendenhall, a Catholic Charities staff member who runs the site.

State and federal governments often task nonprofits like Catholic Charities to help migrants who are permitted to stay. Their mission is to get migrants the necessities they need before they travel to other parts of the country.

"They don't have anything, not even shoes," a staffer said.

The workers and volunteers provide unique insight into what the country should be doing.

"I approach it outside of politics," said Mendenhall, a former employee of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mendenhall says his biggest issue is that immigration has become too politicized.

"There are a lot of migrants who come through here that have been separated from their family members," Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall's wish of getting the politics out of the issue is unlikely to happen. The border is poised to be a major issue at the voting booth in the midterm election this fall.

Early data shows 2022 will be very similar to 2021 in illegal border crossing attempts.