I went to Mexico yesterday to see if I could find the missing migrants who were not showing up at the shelter and clinic in Laredo. I decided I needed to be on that side to bear witness.
To recap: I’ve been volunteering this week at the LaFrontera Immigrant Shelter and Clinic in Laredo. For a few months, CBP has brought up to 200 immigrants a day for respite before leaving to stay with their sponsors. Then in the last week: almost no migrants were dropped off.
See my previous blog post for details about this.
Fast forward to yesterday. By chance, I found a reporter in Mexico who had been documenting what was happening on the Mexico side of the border. He agreed to meet me there. In the meantime, a contact from the shelter connected me to a woman who was helping to feed the migrants.
She agreed to pick me up, drive me across the border, and show me around the area including what she has been seeing and doing. We grabbed some supplies and loaded up in her van with her three children and headed to Mexico. Nuevo Laredo.
She first showed me all the “shelters” on the Mexico side where migrants were supposed to be. Empty. She explained that there was no system to get migrants there and no oversight to see that they were receiving food, water, etc. No one knew where the migrants were.
She took us by one that had been run by a local parish. Empty. Closed down. The priest had been missing for 3 days, presumed kidnapped. No one knew where these migrants were either.
After a few more stops, we went to the Mexican Immigration building: Customs on their side of the border. This is where CBP has been bringing migrants instead of letting them stay in the US in shelters like the one I’ve been volunteering at.
This is where the photos I shared previously were taken. This is where children had been sleeping on pizza boxes. It was empty when we got there, but both she and the reporter told us that at times, there were up to 200 people-including children-sheltering under this structure.
We waited for the migrants to be brought across for a bit, then went and delivered diapers to children waiting at a local children’s hospital and food to people in a town square. The woman we were with has been feeding the poor in her city for 9 years. She’s and angel.
Then went back to check on the migrants. CBP brought around 50 yesterday, and we found them sitting on the ground with their kids waiting and wondering what to do. They kept asking us where they were going and what they were supposed to be doing. No one had told them.
It was over 100 degrees yesterday in Nuevo Laredo and they had been brought from cages in the US where they had been held without proper food, water, & shelter, after having traveled weeks or more to seek asylum. Now they were just waiting in this parking lot for instructions.
We found out that the people who had been camped out there in the previous days had been rounded up and bussed to the interior of Mexico. Originally to Monterrey state. Once there, there was no tracking of where they were or what their situation was.
They would be required to travel back to the US, to the exact spot they started from, to have their asylum claims heard. If they traveled to the wrong place, they would be denied. Through all this, they have no set place to stay. No relatives. No money.
Remember: these are not Mexican citizens. They are from El Salvador and other countries in Central America. They had sold everything to seek asylum in the US. Their sponsors & families are in the US. We are sending them to a country they do not know to await their court date.
It gets worse. The Mexican Government was originally sending them to the Mexican state of Monterrey. For unknown reasons, they are now sending them to Chiapas. A 9 hour bus ride away. And they still have to come back to Laredo for their asylum claims on the assigned date.
So, not only do they have to figure out how to survive in a county they do not know where they have no money, shelter, food, or job, they have to figure out how to get back to Laredo for their asylum claims.
Contrast that with the migrants who had been coming to the shelter. They were released to families and sponsors in the US to await their hearings. They are safe and with people they know. They are with people who can help them get to their hearings.
Another twist: their hearings, the ones for the migrants staying with relatives and sponsors in the US, are conducted at locations close to where they are staying. They do not have to travel back to Laredo.
So because of the Trump Administration’s new Migrant “Protection” Policy (MPP), we are sending people seeking asylum, a LEGAL process, families, children away. Turning our backs on them and leaving them without resources where they risk falling prey to organized crime and cartels
Expecting them to navigate processes they do not understand with no resources. They came seeking help and compassion and we answered with cruelty and a lack of caring. Instead of children being housed here:
We are sending them here:
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do and I realize that there is only one thing: remove every single person in office who supports this president and his policies. Vote. Them. Out. There is no protest or petition or phone call that is going to change their minds.
Charity, however well meaning, is just a bandaid, and we have no mechanism for providing help to those who have been turned away.
But individuals voting is not enough. You-YOU-are going to have to invest TIME and MONEY into the electoral process. Don’t ask me how you can help these people if you are not willing and ready to hear the answer.
The answer is to start working NOW. Volunteer on a campaign NOW. Donate to candidates NOW. Register voters NOW. Treat politics like an everyday part of your life.
But the election is more than a year away! Why start now?
Because the GOP started decades ago. We are woefully behind. These things we are seeing now are the result of decades of think-tank work, recruiting and training candidates, packing courts.
WE. ARE. BEHIND.
Don’t wake up next November with regrets.
UPDATE: It does appear that the priest I mentioned was kidnapped. A cartel showed up to kidnap the migrants. The priest stood in their way. So they took him too.