Saturday, January 11, 2020

January 2020

and I've been bad at keeping up...there hasn't been much change. Since MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols aka Remain in Mexico) we haven't had a lot of people to care for.

Those who cross along the border in our area are bussed to Brownsville, E. TX, and across the bridge to Matamoros, Mexico. The numbers fluctuate and might be unreliable but some 1500 asylum seekers are camped by the bridge over the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. On the US side is a huge tent facility where hearings are supposedly held. There is little chance to get legal representation; the judge is via video; the judges don't know what the rules are either; and virtually everyone is sent back to Matamoros to wait for another date, which may be fake (recent evidence that ICE is intentionally making up dates).

Those camped out--some have tents, as volunteers from Brownsville, McAllen, and elsewhere have hauled those over and distributed them. They don't keep anyone cool in the strong heat nor warm in the cold nights. Blankets have been taken over, some mats for sleeping on instead of cement or dirt.

Portapotties are insufficient. Shower facilities even fewer, and some require payment. Meals? Team Brownsville makes dinner some 5 days a week. McAllen Cath Charities has taken to making and hauling and distributing sandwiches and milk several times a week, sometimes every day (depending on how many volunteers there are).

It's all taken over on foot, with wagons, thru customs, and distributed as fairly as possible.

Neither the Mexican gov't nor the USA gov't is providing resources such as food, shelter, sanitation, opps for school or work, opps to plead their cases.

The Respite Center in McAllen still receives some asylum seekers--pregnant women, families with special needs children. Recently Catholic Charities agreed to accept some Haitians & Congolese who do not have family or friends in the US. Normally, we receive detainees with such connections and we help them get there. The refugees we currently have are living at the Center as sponsors are sought.

We can't simply send them out with nothing--and to where? So Cath Char is looking for church or other groups who will commit to helping, which means helping with housing, cooking, groceries, money, school registration, getting to appointments, and the list goes on and on. It's a big commitment but necessary to keep these vulnerable people from falling through cracks.

So at least every other day a group of volunteers with supplies of sandwiches, milk, diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, gloves, blankets, etc loads vehicles, drives to Brownsville, unloads into wagons, draws wagons across the bridge, distributes supplies, and returns to McAllen.

I've gone several times but generally stay in town, at the Center. If there are few volunteers, our help is critical. Preparing breakfast, serving breakfast, cleaning up, preparing lunch, making sandwiches for journeys or for Matamoros, portioning formula, diapers, wipes for Matamoros, and dealing with whatever comes up. The staff person in charge focuses on finding sponsors, transportation, and so on and the volunteers do the rest.

There was a period of 3-4 days when I was the only person other than the staff member. Had I not been there, she would have had to do all the meals/serving etc on her own--tho of course we involve the asylum seekers with cleaning and helping out. It's good work for me, I am not complaining. But it's why I tend to stay at the Center. I am familiar with routines, where things are, how to find things, etc so I can be more effective here than going to Matamoros.

We need the policy to change. The people camped out here (and elsewhere along the border) are in difficult and dangerous situations. Cartels, kidnappings, rape--constant dangers. These are not criminals! They are seeking safety, which is their legal right. We should not be forcing them to camp indefinitely in dangerous places.

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