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Church Opens Facility To Help Migrant Families

HOUSTON, Texas — As thousands of immigrants make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border each day, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has offered a temporary shelter for families who have been granted entry into the country.

“The primary purpose of this is to take care of the families, to be a weigh station,” said Elder Carlos Villarreal, an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the director of the new facility in Houston, Texas. “The brethren got with President Nelson and he was very concerned and his directive was, ‘we need to take care of the children.’”

Among the first families to get a bed, toiletries and food at the new Family Transfer Center was a family from Brazil. The father said they walked for three months to get to the border. Another family from Haiti said it took them five months.

Church officials worked with other Houston-area churches and non-profit organizations, like the YMCA, to open the center in response to an influx of people at the border.

According to NBC News, U.S. border authorities had their highest number of encounters with migrants in more than 20 years in April.

“I for one am grateful for what has been offered to me from Mexican parents — a chance to be in this country,” said Villarreal, who is the son of Mexican immigrants. “My wife and I — she being a granddaughter of immigrants — are grateful for the privilege to help others as we were helped many years ago.”

Villarreal said border patrol agents have already processed the families who come to the shelter.

The church is relying on volunteers from among the more than 70,000 church members and 23 stakes in the Houston area. Volunteers will also come from partner organizations, allowing them to help up to 500 people a day. He said most families will move on from the center after 24 hours.

Villarreal said he expects the center to remain open for about six months, depending on the need. They are also working to open a second facility in Houston.

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