Daily trips to Tijuana: What I learned — and didn’t

  • Contributed by Anna Myers

    Anna Myers

  • Anna Myers / Special to The Garden Island

    This organized shelter houses families and others waiting their number to come up for asylum interviews, in Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Anna Myers / Special to The Garden Island

    Youth dance in Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Photo by Anna Myers

    Anna Myers leads a few people in yoga during her journey to Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Anna Myers / Special to The Garden Island

    In El Chaparral, Tijuana, Mexico, some of Anna Myers’ “office-mates” were, from left, Jorge from Mexico, Yabes from India and Eric from the Philippines.

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.

April 4

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!

April 6

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.

April 13

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.

April 14

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/.

  1. Palani June 29, 2019 3:36 am Reply

    “relate a detailed story”. Perhaps that’s the whole point. They don’t want a credible story, they want the truth. Most of these people are coached from the get-go to tell a tale of terror and woe. Yes, there are a whole lot of people who are worse off than the average American. That doesn’t mean we can, or should, let them enter the country. Asylum is for people who are directly threatened because of their religion, race, or origins. Being from a bad neighborhood does not qualify, otherwise all of East L.A., Compton, the South Side of Chicago, much of Philadelphia, Pittsburg, etc. would be seeking asylum.
    Let’s give THOSE people $4.6 billion of aid.

  2. John Dwayne June 29, 2019 5:45 am Reply

    Think if this lady cared about hawaiians. Never was a treaty here for make it us. She should move cali. I wanna help local kids and familys. Dont know why people wanna help those so far while local kids suffer

  3. Patrick H Flores June 29, 2019 6:14 am Reply

    I am glad that Ms. Myers gave her thoughts and observations from first hand experience. Many people consider our government to be an uncaring organization determined to oppress the asylum seekers. I believe that lawful and legal immigration is a procedure that is already spelled out in the statutes that exist in the immigration laws of these USA. I believe that the government of Mexico has a moral obligation to actively participate in the plight of the people entering that nation, if nothing else, a humanitarian effort. Mexico is not a nation without resources to assist, they are a very substantial international trade partner with USA.

  4. behappy June 29, 2019 6:58 am Reply

    According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, as of 2017 there were around 554,000 homeless people in the US on a given night. Politicians are the problem. They invite these people to arrive. Let’s bring up the real issue. We already have an epidemic. Adding more people to the list will only make it worse. Look at our own island. We cannot take care of our own, why add to the problem? You don’t have to go to the border to see people living in the open. At least some have shelter there.

  5. Charlie Chimknee June 29, 2019 9:07 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    What a mess, danged if you do and danged if you don’t…US southern border. Kindhearted Americans, desperate foreign neighbors.

    US employers needing workers both English and no matter which speaking people.

    US CITIZENS Cannot afford Health Disease Care but let’s give FREE Disease Care to the “invaders”.

    Our homeless sleeping in the bushes, cars, and beaches…let’s give the invaders free housing and free food.

    Due to ones birth neighborhood affiliation there is an over abundance of same in prison from minority neighborhoods…just trying to make a living from what is available to them to survive or thrive. A kid capable of being a doctor but cannot afford Stanford resorts to crime and gets Punishment.

    A Honduran close friend in the US almost 30 years, fully Americanized and now with his adult American children, returned to Honduras recently for the first time in almost 30 years, and said it was just horrible and extremely dangerous with drugs, gangs, cartels, and the desperate desperados.

    Friends said of all the Central American countries, Honduras was nothing to write home about even 50 years ago.

    Would it be better to help make Honduras better at least to the point where Hondurans prefer to live in Honduras?

    Sneak into any country in the World, get caught and ask for FREE food, lodging, and medical dental and vision.


    Or would the $5 Billion for the Wall be better spent in Honduras or would it just be a nation chain reaction for those within CARAVAN range…get free US TAXPAYER $$$…?


  6. hutch June 29, 2019 9:11 am Reply

    *sigh* the liberal insanity continues. Please listen loud and clear, Ms. Myers and others. The United States of America is under no obligation whatsoever to take in the millions of people from Central and South America who want to come to this country just because they’re living in poverty. That’s the hard reality of it. If we take it all of these millions of people, it wouldn’t be long before it’s *our* country that’s also impoverished due to the huge drain economic refugees place on our economy. Political asylum is completely different from economic flight from poverty. It’s insane to think that we can or should take these people in just because they are poor. If they want to immigrate legally to this country, that’s another matter, but to just walk up to the border and say ‘take care of me’ is another. We have enough victims in our country as it is. Sorry, but that’s life.

  7. Tim Smyth June 29, 2019 11:24 pm Reply

    We have an immigration system and laws passed by Congress. Migrants have homes in their native countries. Hawaii could volunteer to take a million or so migrants each year until the crisis is over.

  8. ruthann jones July 2, 2019 5:28 am Reply

    The author sounded very ‘self congratulatory’ for her one week of help.

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