Charlotte nonprofit details migration journeys, crossings

Camino has received more than $560 million in federal funds

Migrants reach through a border wall for clothing handed out by volunteers as they wait between two border walls to apply for asylum on May 12, 2023, in San Diego. (Gregory Bull / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — A report by a Charlotte-area nonprofit engaged in assisting migrants offers details about migration journeys to the U.S. border with Mexico as well as a look at the partnerships, transportation and migrant demographics involved.

The nonprofit is called Camino and focuses on Hispanic and Latino communities. The group’s website says it offers a “wide range of services, including but not limited to, general healthcare, behavioral therapy, upward mobility, professional development, and education.”

The founder and CEO of Camino and Camino Church is Rusty Price.

“Since Camino’s founding in 2003, Price has helped provide over $150,000,000.00 in aid through multiple humanitarian projects he led in many countries, including Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the United States,” Camino’s website says.

The group’s report, The Migrant Experience: A Journey of Hope, was published on Mar. 28, 2023.

“Findings are presented in the sequence of a migrant’s journey to the US; pre-migration, pre-border crossing, crossing the border, post-border crossing, and settling in N.C.,” the report says.

Per the report’s summary, the Camino team conducted a multisite study at the U.S.-Mexico border, collaborating with organizations on both sides, and examined partnerships with Border Servant Corps (BSC) and a Juarez migrant shelter by analyzing “de-identified data.”

BSC operates various large-scale shelters for asylum-approved migrants along the border through partnerships with the ACLU, American Red Cross, and religion-affiliated nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Church World Services.

Interviews with migrants were held in El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Juarez, Mexico; and North Carolina, focusing on motivations, challenges, transportation, plans and demographics of migrants.

According to the report, interviews with more than 4,000 migrants in Mexico and 10,000 in New Mexico showed a significant presence of young adults and children. However, Customs and Border Patrol data for the past three fiscal years shows the largest set of migrants crossing the border are single adults.

2021: Total Encounters 1,734,686, Single Adults 1,105,925 (64%)
2022: Total Encounters 2,475,669, Single Adults 1,663,278 (67%)
2023: Total Encounters 2,378,944 Single Adults 1,514,322 (64%)

Motivations for crossing the U.S. border, both legally and illegally, encompassed seeking better opportunities for their families, health care and being able to send money back to family members in their home country to help support them.

Some indicated that fleeing violence was a motivation, while others indicated “food insecurity” was an issue, which included having no money to buy food or skipping meals entirely.

The report explores the dangers and hardships migrants endured during the trip, including financial costs, with an “average expenditure of $5,000 per person” despite some indicating they had no money to buy food.

“The cost to travel to the border is relatively high,” the report states. “Participants estimated to have paid around $5,000 per person to arrive at the border, and they explained that while that may not sound like much in the US, it is a lot in Latin America.”

A Venezuelan man explained the cost to get to the U.S. border in the report, stating the total costs to get to the U.S. border at around $4,000 to $5,000.

Mexico is the hardest area to get through, per the interviews in the report. Migrants cited violence and danger that coyotes (human smugglers), cartels and corrupt police present.

Data sets in the report show the top destination states reported by migrants are Florida, New York, Texas, California and New Jersey. However, migrants listing North Carolina as their destination have “increased by 325% in the last 4 months,” with Charlotte listed as a top location, primarily due to knowing someone who already lives there.

NGOs have received scrutiny over the past year for their role in facilitating illegal immigrant travel to the border as well as aid and travel within the U.S. interior. According to the immigration watchdog group Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security was estimated to be providing “$363.8 million of taxpayer dollars” through programs giving grants to NGOs and nonprofits to handle migrant arrivals in Fiscal Year 2023.

Records show that from 2021 through 2023, Camino received $568,181 in federal grants from Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services, mainly in the area of providing mental health and social services. The organization also has had $317,488 in two federal COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program loans forgiven.

The Camino Community Development Corporation, Inc. (CCDC) has received grants from local organizations, such as one in 2021 to expand a behavioral health program from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

CCDC also received a Golden LEAF Foundation grant for $169,850 for building renovations, a walk-in refrigeration unit, shelving, shopping carts, food safety equipment, a box truck with a lift, a wash-and-pack station, and a dolly and hand truck.

The most recent filings for CDCC show the organization received $5.6 million in revenue and $5 million in expenses in 2022. Executive compensation totaled $125,000, and “other salaries and wages” came in at $1,987,624.

About A.P. Dillon 1293 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_