Saturday, February 16, 2019

McAllen Feb '19 #5, including the story of the boy who ran away but came back

Today was MUCH better, except for The Nun. I'll rant about her last so you can skip it.

I went in at 7 in the morning, which is not a hardship for me, I'd gotten up at 4:15.  There's always a guard there, and he takes small groups to the bus station who are leaving early. So I helped make sure there were bags of food, blankets, and small toys/gifts for the kids before he left, and then I was pretty much by myself. With about 300 asylum seekers, lol. I stayed at the main desk until he got back, which wasn't long. But while he was gone two good sized Anglos came in. No question who they were....and indeed they were ICE agents looking for a young man of 16, an unaccompanied minor.  He'd apparently arrived yesterday and then took off, left the center, no one knew where he was and these agents were looking for him.

Not being a fan of la migra, I was wary. But they insisted they merely wanted to find him because he'd left without any documents and without documents, no one could make travel arrangements for him to join family in Michigan.

I'm trying to imagine how I would fare at that age, traveling so far on my own, being held in detention, and so on. It had to have been really difficult for him. At any rate, having decided the agents were being honest (because after all, they are dumping folks out of detention all the time) and that they didn't want him for nefarious reasons, the three of us went through the center, explaining, and asking if anyone had seen him. And they had, but they didn't know where he was.

Then a boss came in....And Alma already knew the story and we agreed to keep an eye out for him.

And I'm going to skip forward in time to finish his story. Near lunchtime, I went to the central desk. Alma wasn't there, and someone requested children's tylenol so I went to the very small room behind us to get it--and there was Alma, with the missing boy, who looked scared and had been crying. Alma had called the agents but didn't want to leave him alone. First, he was scared. Second, there are a lot of OTC medicines there. So I stayed with him while she went out to the desk and as I closed the door, the agents came in. I asked them to wait a minute and tried to reassure the young man that this was not jail, detention, any kind of punishment but instead, an effort to get him his documents so he could travel to family. The agents came in and tried to reassure him too but no doubt he was exhausted and hadn't eaten much and he was small and brown and they were large and white....so he was still upset but went with them anyway. I hope he finds good and kind treatment and can be on his way very soon. It is a shame we can't really keep up with their stories....

Back to early morning. I headed to the sandwich room, which is a priority. We have to make ham and cheese sandwiches, bag them, and put them in the fridge. In the meantime, we have bags with 2 bottles of water and 8 different sorts of snacks: cheese crackers, chips, cookies, granola bars, and so on. So first we make  a LOT of sandwiches and then as people leave, we put 4 sandwiches in each bag of snacks, one bag for each family (depending on our resources, we might give 2 bags to a large family, or 2 to a family traveling far away).

Doc, Master of Sandwiches, is always there by 730. Except today he wasn't. So I started by myself, laying out slices of bread along the long table, opening cheese and adding it, putting a slice of ham on each, and then another piece of bread. Then we stack them and bag them.  I'm reasonably efficient and just got to work....Doc showed up at 9, saying he'd set his alarm wrong. So he and I worked....and then got a 3rd helper, and it is amazing how much 3 efficient people can do when there is a system. After making a few hundred sandwiches we switched to making the snack bags and finally we had the fridges filled and the shelves filled and had no more bread or snacks anyway. We'll get more tomorrow out of storage.

There is one bus company that comes and picks up our asylum seekers, like a bus that goes regularly through New Orleans and various cities in Florida. The Nun looked sideways at me but since I was alone, and only have 2 hands, I made sure each family had a bag of snacks on the way to the bus, and then took a grocery cart with blankets, boarded the bus, distributed the blankets. And then grabbed my bin of toys/gifts and went back through handing those out to all the young people. There are pens/crayons, paper, and other things in each drawstring bag (all made by a church somewhere) and even the older kids can enjoy that.

Around 10 or so, we had a wonderful influx of volunteers. There was a small group of incredible women with a U-Haul of supplies, experience, and brains. Then a couple of groups of young people came. It was lovely to be able to staff all the clothing rooms, have help with snack bags, catch up on sorting, organizing, and serving. Fantastic. I shall say nothing of the 2-3 older volunteers who've come and and wandered around this week. They were wandering again. But all our other volunteers kept busy and looked for ways to help, which was just great.

As it quieted down near lunch, I left to get something to eat and then get back before the first bus, which seems to be coming earlier each day. I was back by 12:45 and a bus had already come....so I was immediately working. We had 4 buses by 4 pm and I guess another was expected but there were more staff and enough volunteers so I left a bit earlier than usual.

Wow, this is longer than usual and I haven't even ranted about The Nun yet. I think I'll leave it for now...maybe add to this post later or in the morning. Or maybe I will attempt compassion, acceptance, and so on. At least until I see her again....

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