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Cuban refugees arriving in El Paso getting lost

People at the Bridge of the Americas

The first wave of what could become thousands of Cuban refugees have begun arriving in El Paso. Four thousand expected in the next two weeks.

KFOX14 discovered refugees are arriving confused and lost.

Volunteers at the Houchen Center drove around Friday afternoon looking for Cuban immigrants who have just arrived and have nowhere to go. They said they have no way of knowing when the planes are arriving and when the immigrants are coming.

"Its very hit or miss," said Ray Dominguez, a volunteer.

They said some of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents are giving immigrants information on where to go, but that's not always the case.

"A lot of them are walking around downtown. We've actually heard some are walking to the Houchen Center. A lot are getting taxis, because taxicab drivers are offering to take them," said Dominguez.

Volunteers are patrolling the bridges trying to help as many refugees as they can and take them to a shelter but said it's difficult because Cuban immigrants are entering at every bridge.

"There's a lot of miscommunication," said Dominguez.

Friday evening, KFOX14 met Robbie Rosales at the Bridge of the Ameridas. "I lived 11 months in Ecuador "Rosales said. "I've, traveled for two months before getting here to the United States."

It's been a long and difficult journey to reach the United States.

"To get here has been very hard. We've traveled through the jungle, and they've robbed many of us. Some women have been raped. They've treated us bad and have taken things from us, all so that we can fulfill our American dream," said Rosales.

Friday night, he waited at the bridge for his friends to join him.

"It's every Cuban's American dream. For the opportunities that are available for Cubans and everyone else who wants to come to this country. To make our dreams come true," said Rosales.

He has no idea what time his friends will arrive or where they will stay Friday night.

Rosales had no idea there are organization like the Houchen Center, the Annunciation House and the Catholic Diocese that are ready and able to help.

"I am unfamiliar with everything here, so I'm trying to investigate. I really don't know anyone here in Texas, so I can't take the risk. I have no one to help me. The person helping me is in New York," said Rosales.

Dominguez said they are finding that to often be the case.

The refugees don't know about the organizations ready to help. So volunteers continue to drive around.

"People are coming from a whole other world. We're trying to be here as much as we can in order to facilitate this to be a little quicker," said Dominguez.

Unfortunately, volunteers said there have already been instances of unscrupulous people picking up Cubans, robbing them and leaving them on the side of the road

Rosales said he is the only one in his family now in the United States.

"I want to work and eventually bring my family here in the future," said Rosales.

His journey isn't quite over yet, but now his American dream is just starting.

"I want to thank the government and all the Americans for giving us the opportunity to get to this country to pursue our dreams," said Rosales.

Luckily, many of the Cubans that are already in El Paso that are staying at the Houchen Center have been able to tell volunteers when their friends or their families are coming in. They've been able to communicate via phone, and so that's been one way volunteers know when to head to the bridge.

"The first thing they want to do when they get here is get on Facebook and send messages to their family," said Dominguez.

The Houchen Center and the Annunciation House are need of volunteers, according to spokeswoman for the diocese's Elizabeth O'Hara. She said personal hygiene products can dropped off at the Houchen Center at 609 Tays or Annunication House 1003 E. San Antonio.

Bus tickets for the refugees can also be donated. The Houchen Center is working with Tornado Bus Line to purchase discounted tickets for the refugees. If anyone wants to buy bus tickets, they need the name of the traveler. Those who want to make those purchases can do so by making a check to the Diocese of El Paso. Please designate the check as being for Cuban refugee relief.

For more info on volunteering, product drop-off and bus tickets, call Annunication House at 915-545-4509.

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