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Posted on: December 20, 2023

MIGRANT INTAKE CENTER IN DOWNTOWN BROWNSVILLE DECORATED TO SPREAD CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

Intake Center

The holiday spirit is being brought to life at the migrant intake center in downtown Brownsville, thanks to the efforts of Odee A. Leal, the director of the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for the City of Brownsville.

 This year, the center has been adorned with festive Christmas decorations, including around four Christmas trees, miniature elves, and nutcrackers, most of which are Leal's decorations.

“I love Christmas and I always decorate for Christmas, so I thought I would share the season, the Christmas season with them,” Leal said.

A highlight for the children at the center is a life-size Santa Claus who sings and dances to Christmas songs in Spanish. The children's excitement is palpable as they eagerly take photos with Santa, touch him, and sing along to the festive tunes.

This initiative is different from previous years, as the center primarily received single adults in the past. Now, with more family units arriving, Leal felt it was important to share the Christmas spirit, especially considering that many of these families are in transit to other destinations. The festive atmosphere provides a moment of joy and comfort in their journey.

“We’ve always received more single adults before and now we are seeing family units and for that reason, we have to remember they are going onward to travel somewhere else but it’s the season of Christmas, it’s the season of giving so a little bit of spirit in the facility makes it happy for them,” Leal said.

The Brownsville intake structure is a model being considered by other facilities along the southern border for its effective and humane handling of migrants.

In this structure, family members or sponsors of non-citizens are contacted upon their processing. Migrants are then taken to welcome centers for essential items and assistance before being returned to the intake center. Here, staff collaborates with family members to arrange their onward journey, ensuring safe transportation to bus terminals or airports.

“At no time is a migrant left alone to cross the street alone not knowing where they are at if they are going to be getting on an Uber or a Lyft, we ensure that the license plates are sent to us by a loved one and they are getting on the proper Uber and the proper Lyft,” Leal said.

This approach emphasizes Brownsville’s humanitarian treatment of migrants, ensuring their safety and comfort during their stay at the center.

 

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