Rural Mexican border town getting much-needed migrant facility for weary asylum-seekers

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Volunteers are seen carrying goods and supplies into the Casa De La Esperanza migrant facility that is set to open Saturday in remote Sasabe, Mexico, in the northern state of Sonora. (Courtesy Photo)

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HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — After months of giving out sandwiches and water bottles, volunteers have opened a migrant resource facility to continue helping asylum-seekers who end up in the tiny desert outpost of Sasabe, Mexico, across the border from the Arizona town with the same name.

Through a collaboration of volunteers from both sides of the border, Casa De La Esperanza (House of Hope) is set to open on Saturday, said Gail Kocourek of the Tucson-based nonprofit Tucson Samaritans.

But they already have had their first guests, because after they painted the Spanish logo on the outside of the building recently, eight men who had trekked through the desert knocked on the door for assistance, Kocourek told Border Report on Thursday.

The Casa De La Esperanza migrant resource facility is to open on Saturday, May 21, 2021, in the tiny town of Sasabe, Mexico. (Courtesy Photo)

And they have a mascot: A puppy left by a mother and child from El Salvador who were recently granted asylum in the United States, she said.

This dog was left at the Casa De La Esperanza migrant center in Sasabe, Mexico, after its owners received asylum in the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

Kocourek says the facility is long overdue in this remote region where migrants die every summer, and even in the winters, as they try to traverse the Sonoran Desert.

In 2020, the remains of 227 migrants were found in this desert region, according to Tucson Samaritans.

“Some of them are in horrible shape,” said Kocourek, who drives 70 miles from Tucson several times a week to assist the migrants. “Some of these folks have walked. Others have spent a lot of money to get to the border. Many are hungry, sick, and disillusioned at this point.”

The Mexican government picks some of them up while patrolling in the mountains and brings them to Sasabe. “A lot of them don’t know what’s going on and they’re in a community with no buses and where they don’t know anyone,” she said.

The nearest Mexican town is 70 miles away and there is no transportation leading to Sasabe, a blink-and-you-miss-it border town in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, just across from the small hamlet of Sasabe, Ariz. Yet upwards of 50 asylum-seekers per day make their way to this dusty area, hoping to cross into the United States.

With thousands of migrants who have crossed into South Texas from Mexico paroled into the United States since President Joe Biden took office, many in Sasabe believe they will be next. But Kocourek says the U.S. Border Patrol is not letting them in like they are in South Texas. And that has left thousands waiting.

Border Report visited both Sasabe towns in October and watched as U.S. Border Patrol agents expelled adult migrants south of the border.

Kocourek said most migrants in the Sasabe area are brought by cartel human traffickers who sort and categorize them in the town of Altar, Sonora, Mexico. Single adults usually end up in Sasabe, while families of migrants are sent by cartel to the Nogales area.

This map shows the route from Altar to Sasabe and Altar to Nogales in the Mexican border state of Sonora.
Gail Kocourek, far left, of the nonprofit Tucson Samaritans of Tucson, Arizona, is seen with volunteers prepping a new migrant resource center in Sasabe, Mexico. (Courtesy Photo)

The resource center is not an overnight shelter but will offer a daily hot meal, showers, clothing, as well as legal aid and medical help. It will also have a community garden, offer English and craft lessons, and it will be opened up to the local community, as well.

A crew of 10 local Mexican residents are running the facility, two are paid a stipend, and a nonprofit board is overseeing operations.

That’s important in a remote area like this where jobs are scarce and the economy is faltering, she said. It also will ensure ownership by the locals to see the facility succeed.

“When you give the responsibility to the local people they take a lot more pride and I think the chances of it thriving will be a little more great,” Kocourek said.

And they plan to hold regular medical and legal clinics for locals, as well, to make this a center point of the small town, she said.

Volunteers have been preparing the new migrant center, Casa De La Esperanza, that is opening Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Sasabe, Mexico, south of the border of Sasabe, Arizona. (Courtesy Photos)

The town of 1,700 has swelled to over 2,500 because of all of the arriving migrants.

On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced they had opened an 80,000-square-foot soft-sided facility in Tucson to process incoming migrants.

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