Apprehensive and not knowing what to expect, a trio of social workers from New Jersey flew out Thursday morning to the U.S. border in Texas to provide aid and document the living conditions of hundreds of migrants at the McAllen detention center.

Leading up to their departure, the three members of the National Association of Social Workers' New Jersey chapter had raised nearly $5,000 for purchasing and bringing supplies to the center, the largest in the country for processing unauthorized immigrants.

"We'll be providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for them. We'll be interacting with them," said Jennifer Thompson, executive director of the New Jersey chapter. "The other really important thing for us is to understand firsthand what's happening at the border, understand the conditions that these detainees are being held in."

Jennifer Thompson, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers' New Jersey chapter

The center, which can hold more than 1,000 people, has been criticized for overcrowded conditions and poor sleeping and bathing opportunities. It received widespread attention last year for reports of children, stripped from their parents, forced to stay within chain-link pens.

The social workers return to New Jersey on Sunday. They plan to eventually meet with Senate leadership "to impact policy decisions that are being made," and share their experience with New Jersey legislators. Thompson said they plan to document the trip to the best of their ability, on social media and with video footage.

As a mother and second-immigration immigrant, Thompson said taking this trip has some personal relevance as well.

"I hope that they will see us as compassionate Americans and people that embody everything that they came to this country to be a part of," she said.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.