July 14, 2014; Brownsville Herald
Nonprofits nationwide have already been lending support in a variety of forms to the children and families who are part of the recent immigration wave. A recent story in the Brownsville Herald offers a glimpse of the local steps that the Texas-based international organization known by the acronym BCFS has had to take in order to assume the role of an emergency manager in this crisis.
According to the Brownsville Herald, BCFS is planning to convert a Weslaco hotel into a 600-bed intake facility for unaccompanied immigrants between the ages of 12 and 17 in the Rio Grande Valley. Envisioned as a kind of temporary housing solution to provide children with medical care, educational programs including outdoor recreational activities, and case management support, BCFS hopes to open the facility by October 1st. Before the facility can open, however, BCFS first needs to show that it can renovate the hotel so that it is up to code with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ licensing standards, and then it needs to get approval from the Weslaco City Commission when it meets next month.
Although BCFS still has some local loopholes to go through in Weslaco, it is worth noting that the organization is already operating similar programs in other geographic areas in response to this immigration wave. Krista Piferrer, vice president for external affairs, explained in an email that because BCFS has a track record in Texas and California with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Settlement, the organization is already providing support to unaccompanied immigrants at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
As the city of Weslaco weighs the decision of whether or not to allow BCFS to open this new facility, an important factor will be the organization’s projection that the proposed intake facility will bring an estimated 650 jobs and $50 million in income annually to the area. Elaborating on this hefty $50 million projection by email, Piferrer explained that it “includes nearly $16 million in salaries and benefits; $10 million filtered into the local economy for operating services such as electricity, rent, contract labor, gasoline, telephone, office supplies, cleaning supplies, advertising, rentals, groceries, and miscellaneous local vendors”—and, she added, “$2 million in immediate property improvements invested within the first 90 days.”
Citing the strong local support the organization has already received for the plan, including city and federal officials and a nonprofit leader all of whom she listed by name, Piferrer indicated by email that she and her colleagues “are positive and hopeful” that their plan will be approved.—Anne Eigeman