Friday, July 26, 2019
July & Aug 2019 #1
been away but busy, general catch up below
The "new" center
It's been over a month, but still settling in and figuring out systems. We are downtown, literally across the street from the bus station, in a large building that used to be a night club of some sort. There's a large central room with a long bar; a raised platform along one wall, and a couple more large rooms that we use for clothing, showers, bathrooms, dining, & sleeping. Also a nice big commercial kitchen.
We also have the entire upstairs (though not air conditioned). The old storage warehouse was closed and all brought here. It's cavernous and currently struggling a bit between two identities: a ware house and a restocking center. Traffic is an issue at times, with multiple known and unknown volunteers dashing up, getting stuff, and taking it down to the bar or kitchen. Makes keeping inventory a huge challenge, plus there's an uneasiness about so many people having access to so much stuff.
Most of those people do not realize there are cameras EVERYWHERE...up and down stairs. Ha ha.
The border situation
Unchanged. We still receive hundreds of asylum seekers a day, most 2 to 3 person families: one parent plus one or more kids. Most from Central America. All from detention centers where have stayed 4-12 days, without showers, clean clothes, adequate food, any medical care at all.
All have family or sponsors in the US so our task is to connect them to families, who buy bus or plane tickets for them. While that is taking place, they can get a clean set of clothes, a shower, hot food, a place to rest. We often have a nurse for several hours a day and have a clinic area where the doctor(s) come several times a week. In emergencies, we will take them to an ER or clinic. I don't know who pays, but I know Catholic Charities has at least one pharmacy acct and I imagine other arrangements are in place. I have not been asked to pay when I've taken folks.
The numbers have been slightly down, which helps us do a better job, but fluctuation is normal and there is no expectation that they will stay low, and by low I mean under 600 per day. That's about our normal. Not sure how we do it all but somehow, a small group of staff and an always varied number of volunteers manage to distribute hygiene kits, clothes, meals, information, assistance, respect, and comfort.
Meantime, as we do our damndest to respond to a contrived crisis, we are aware that:
seeking asylum is a legal right;
preventing asylum seekers from crossing at authorized ports of entry is illegal;
separation of families is cruel & illegal;
mass detention of asylum seekers in overcrowded, unsanitary, poorly resourced/staffed centers is unconcionable;
deaths of individuals in these centers is preventable but there appears to be no interest in preventing such deaths;
ICE raids across the country are targeting homes, not workplaces, and are designed to invoke terror and uncertainty for no gain other than invoking terror;
anyone, anytime, can be detained by ICE indefinitely, without legal recourse, regardless of whether one is a citizen, DACA, green card holder;
being brown in this country IS the sin.
And this is unacceptable. Local protests and efforts at the state and national levels are ongoing and need to begin producing change immediately.
My new living arrangements
It was getting expensive, these trips. I saved money this summer by apartment sitting for cheap but when I saw that a car rental would cost over a grand, I decided I'd rather sink that money into something that I could recoup. So I bought a car. Then knowing that the apt sitting wouldn't last past 8/1, I rented an apt. Then I needed just a few basic furniture and kitchen items. Then I needed to get the kids up in Iowa in the loop.
All is well except for the guilt tripping by the kids.....but I find if I call them on it, they back down. That's a good thing. So now I am a borderlander--never a Texan--as well as a Midwesterner. I do look forward to winters down here....and the volunteer work continues to satisfy my soul. When the time comes, I haul my modest possessions back north. In the meantime, I have a sanctuary, wheels, and good work. Yay.