• Editor’s note: Kauai resident Anna Myers recently returned from volunteerism with migrant families hoping to get asylum and become American citizens.
Why did I spend two weeks crossing the border, daily, from San Ysidro, California, into Tijuana, Mexico? That is the question I have been asked many times.
The simple answer: Because I needed to see and feel what exactly was going on there. The media gives such discouraging news about asylum-seekers and their living conditions. I had to know. Is it true? And can I possibly do anything to help?
Indeed, the conditions are terrible for thousands of people stranded there. They are either waiting for a number to come into our country to request asylum or they have been given an asylum number but must wait for their trials in Mexico. And many there have already been deported from our country and the other members of their family are legal American citizens and are still in U.S.
In any case, there are very few shelters for people, especially for women and children. Most have no money and are not able to work because they do not have Mexican papers. It is a sad situation to say the least.
I was able to interview individuals to learn of why they were there. I sorted and helped give out clothing that was donated. I helped prepare free lunches at two places. I taught yoga to a few women in a shelter (their first yoga class) and then danced with some kids.
But mostly I just let people know that I cared and assured them that many people in the U.S. do care, but we all feel frustrated. What can we as individuals do to help?
I was able to volunteer for them for almost a week. They are doing an amazing job of preparing men and women for their “credible fear interviews.”
Following are a few of her journal entries recorded while she was there earlier this year.
I spent time today helping women shower and get clean clothes. We have quite a selection for all ages of used clothing. I wish we had some of the swap leftovers! Also we had several families with little children that needed things, mostly TLC. By the way, we have no towels for people who shower. They just use their clothes to dry off. Think I’ll take a picture for you tomorrow or next day to see the place. I had to be the medical person today! Dress a horrible wound!
Found myself walking across the border today with a heavy backpack. I had to bring my day bag so that I could go to the new shelter here in Tijuana and spend the night. There are three families consisting of five children and three mothers. This shelter will only house women and children and they needed a female volunteer. The other shelters in Tijuana are full! And this one just opened its doors. Although this place is really quite nice and comfortable it is big and cold. The children are very noisy but the mothers are very nice and helpful.
Here in Tijuana, you must show up in the square between 7 and 8 a.m. to receive a number. That number puts you on the list to have a brief interview to see if you are eligible for asylum. It will take anywhere from a month or three for your number to be chosen because you are #2078 on the list. You will have to show up every day as your number gets closer. From 1 to 20 numbers are chosen each day, and if your number is chosen, you must be present and line up on the fence to be taken by bus to American border patrol.
My story from yesterday left out a very important and disturbing thing. Today I got clarification about the cold room, the Hielera. While there, you will be taken from the room at any time, even middle of the night, to have your CFI, credible fear interview. This is the most important interview that you will have, because the amnesty employee from the U.S. customs and immigration services will determine if you can get a date for trial or not. This person decides if you can move forward with the process or not. He or she is not even a judge or lawyer, but has ultimate decision about your fate. (Can you imagine being cold and hungry and then being expected to relate a detailed story about your life that is credible?).
Read Myers’ blog at annasbordertrip.home.blog/page/1/.