THE VANS STARTED coming on May 14, depositing their passengers into an alley by the Greyhound station in San Bernardino, California, and then taking off. The first night, the station’s small lobby quickly filled with migrants from Guatemala and elsewhere who had been abruptly dropped off there by the U.S. Border Patrol.
The manager of the station ended up getting many of them tickets to Los Angeles that night, said Luis Suarez, of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. “It’s open 24/7, and he wanted them to have a warm place at least. San Bernardino closes at 2 a.m.” On summer nights, temperatures can drop 30 degrees in the city, which is located in the foothills of a mountain range about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
In the following days, word spread among community groups that Border Patrol was leaving large numbers of migrants at the bus station several times a day without any orientation or assistance. “Our first day on the scene was that Thursday, May 16,” Suarez said. “By then, some of these folks had been sleeping out on the street overnight. We found maybe 35 people, extremely hungry, some of the kids were sick, people hadn’t showered since they’d crossed the border and been kept in hieleras” (the holding cells known in Spanish as “iceboxes” for their freezing air conditioning).
“Border Patrol was not providing medical attention” before dropping off the migrants, said Erika Paz, also with the coalition. “Everyone had a cold. … There was one youth who was seriously dehydrated, and our local doctors were able to bring him back to health.” In recent months, five Guatemalan children have died while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, custody or soon after being released, of flu or other ailments.
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