Sunday, March 24, 2019

McAllen March 2019 #5


Some kind souls brought little bags of popcorn and cotton candy for the grandma volunteer ran after them with antibacterial hand wash.

and then a day or too later someone brought lots of donuts. Sticky sticky donuts.

Rarely do we see the end of these refugees' journeys. Yesterday, though, a family of four arrived and have family in McAllen. We didn't process them. I took them to a private area and let them use my phone to call their family. About 10 minutes later, I was out front; the family was just inside; and the brother in law drove up. The reunion was one of the happiest moments I've seen at the center.

Several days now we've worked hard to get people distributed to other respites to rest.  When they have their arrangements made, we bus them to our old center, the church, the Salvation Army, and so on. From there we drive around collecting them and taking them to the bus terminal at the appropriate time.

That means, except for the Salvation Army, we have three places where we need to cook, clean, have places to sleep, and so on. We have four places to pick up refugees to take to the bus station. Sometimes we are taking multiple families to the airport as well.

Meantime, ICE has become erratic in their schedule of drop offs. The other day the night guard had left, no bosses had arrived, and a full bus showed up at 9 in the morning. I was actually the senior person there! Me and 3 other volunteers. So we handled it....but as the bosses arrived, we became incredibly chaotic, trying to move dozens of families out the front door, dozens of new arrivals down one corridor, and dozens more into a set aside room. All three places--the front door, the corridor, and the room, are at the front of the building.

Add to that the somewhat constant wandering of asylum seekers with little to do....the front of the building was writhing with over a hundred people all moving in slightly different directions. Impossible to get some of us go outside and take that route to get to other parts of the building.

Which reminds me--very kind of that guy to come give talks about the law and immigration but he does so in our dining area, and he does it around noon, when we have two long lines of people being given soup/tortilla/banana/whatever for lunch.  One becomes tempted to simply stay outside.

But of course that is not where the work is. And so many people approach and want something (another toothbrush or toothpaste, a razor, deodorant, a comb, shoe laces, hair ties) and they pretty much don't care if you're already talking or listening to someone, resulting in a cacophony of requests, many minor and easy enough, but impossible to remember. Other questions are more difficult, such as when do I find out if my family got my ticket, and when I leave? Should I go to another center if I am leaving at 9 tonight? What if I'm on OMEX (a line that comes directly to our center but not the others)? Can I call my family in Honduras? Can I borrow your phone?
(mine is always out of sight so it happens more to others). How far is New Jersey? Can I change pesos/lempiras here? and so truly is ever ending simply because there are so many people who need so much...and we are so few.

Yet I will miss them, especially the children with big brown eyes, mischievous smiles, loving and happy expressions.

Except that one kid I made cry....I mean, I'm sorry but I'd asked/told him FIVE times to move to out of the way of all the new people. The 6th time maybe I was a little sharp. He collapsed to the floor in tears and another volunteer tried to cheer him up. I fretted all night. But this morning he and his dad came up. Dad said there had been donuts but they ran out before his son got one. So I happened to have cookies in the other room--GOOD cookies! Wrapped two in a paper towel and offered them to the boy. He looked at them and said No, I want a donut. Well, I said, I am sorry I don't have any. Are you sure you don't want these cookies? NO I want a DONUT. I shrugged and put them back, went on working, and thought"you little snot! Now I don't feel bad at all!"

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