Letter to the Editor, Akron Beacon Journal
Hardships for Immigrants
This month I had the opportunity to see several towns along the southern border, including McAllen and Brownsville in Texas, and Metamoros, Mexico.
What I witnessed is a totally broken immigration system. Current U.S. practice makes seeking asylum a very lengthy process. Some wait for days on the sidewalk with children and no food or water supplied.
With fewer points of entry, the lines are made much longer and force desperate people to make far riskier attempts to enter the country. People who have papers and want to conduct business in the U.S. stand in line for about three hours. If they drive cars, the wait is about five hours.
When migrants who have sponsors in the U.S. are given permission to travel, many have no money or food for the journey. Some also have no money for bus tickets.
Fortunately, there are generous people who regularly provide assistance. I saw two agencies that assist as many as 200 people per day, offering showers, clean clothes, food supplies, and even bus tickets when necessary. They are Catholic Charities Respite Center and Methodist Good Neighbor Settlement House.
The idea that these immigrants are rapists, thieves and drug dealers is simply a lie. They are fleeing for their lives from several countries in near free fall, risking everything on the journey. They are trying to come in the right way, and we have made it far more difficult than it ever was for our ancestors who fled here over the last couple of centuries.
The Rev. Jay Schmidt, Akron
(Letter to the Editor, ABJ, May, 2019)
If one is looking for ways to support the hundreds of immigrants being detained and help reunite separated parents with their children, consider donating to one of these organizations:
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit that defends immigrants' rights. The organization is addressing ICE and border patrol abuse, immigration policies, and more, along with educating the nation on how to uphold the Constitution.
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project
ASAP represents families crossing the border and connects them with support systems they wouldn't normally be able to access. The organization also works to prevent wrongful deportations from the United States and provides legal and emergency services.
Border Angels is a California-based volunteer organization. Its primary efforts focus on tackling immigration reform and promoting social justice at the US-Mexican border. Donations are used to fund educational programs, free immigration services, and events to support those in need.
Catholic Charities of the RGV
700 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd.
San Juan, TX 78589
Good Neighbor Settlement House (United Methodist)
1254 E. Tyler St.
Brownsville, TX 78520
Kids In Need of Defense
KIND defends the rights of unaccompanied immigrant or refugee children and ensures they cannot appear in court without "high quality legal representation."
National Bail Fund Network
Pilar Weiss, project director of the National Bail Fund Network, says one of the most effective ways to reunite immigrants separated from their families is to assist with paying their bail, which can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $80,500. You can find and donate to a bail fund in your city through the National Bail Fund Network.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a Texas-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing immigrant families and refugees with affordable legal assistance. Donations support its team of 130 attorneys and staff members.
South Texas Human Rights Center
117 E. Miller St.
Falfurrias, TX 78355
Young Center For Immigrant Children's Rights
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights advocates for the safety and well-being of unaccompanied kids arriving in the United States. The organization works to protect children from harsh immigration laws and recently announced a project specifically dedicated to helping children separated from their parents at the border.
Donate via ActBlue
Can't decide which organization to donate to? Why not choose eight? ActBlue provides a simple and convenient way for people to distribute a single donation to eight different charities in need. One can donate to We Belong Together, United We Dream, Women’s Refugee Commission, , Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Human Rights First, ACLU, and La Union del Pueblo Entero.
Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV
June 20, 2019; CBS News
It all started in June 2018, when Hamilton received a text message from a friend, saying that she and other women had seen large numbers of women and children sleeping for several days. They were in 100 degree heat, on the concrete walkway of the Reynosa International Bridge, which sits on top of the Rio Grande and connects into McAllen, Texas. "It was quite a shocking scene," Hamilton said.
That's when the group of female friends, "angry at the sense of injustice," decided something needed to be done — rushing to the bridges with food, water, diapers, hand sanitizer lotion, clothes and anything they could think of to help out, and dedicating at least five days a week to helping out.
"We started talking to each other and meeting, and then enough of us were seeing each other enough times that some of us met for coffee at my house just to talk about coordinating a little bit and we formed the Angry Tias, thinking it would last for a few months," said Jennifer Harbury. Angry at the injustice, they used the Spanish words for "aunt" and "grandmother" to form their name. And one year later, the women are still making an effort to help.
All the women go to the McAllen, Brownsville or Harlingen bus stations for periods of at least three days or more to help migrants with hard-to-understand bus tickets, and little knowledge of how a cross-country bus trip, find their way to sponsors all over the U.S.
The women do one-on-one cultural and itinerary orientation for each person that includes assessing tickets, explaining the routes to them, informing them about immigration checkpoints and handing them a packet that includes answers to common questions. They also explain details like bathrooms are free, water fountains can be used to refill water bottles for free, help with the exchange of pesos and even give some $40 for their journey.
"It's just a whole different experience. They're very nervous and they're nervous about how they're gonna be kind of on their own going on these buses and making changes and figuring stuff out. So when we have time we sit down and just visit with them too," said Susan Law.
One of the tias, Elisa Filippone, had been crossing over from her home in Brownsville Texas, to Matamoros, Mexico, six days a week, for a year. She brought tacos and backpacks filled with panty liners, deodorant, clothes, and other items to hundreds of people who waited almost three months, without showers, to try to cross the Brownsville and Matamoros bridge into the U.S. for asylum.
"The situation is happening three blocks from where I work. Three blocks from where I live. I cannot just pretend that they're not there are not 50 people on the side of the bridge who need food and clothing....I can't forget it and go about my life, knowing that it is happening three blocks from where I live," Filippone said.
With the Robert F. Kennedy award, the women are receiving $10,000 to further help migrants searching for a better life in the U.S.
"I'm very proud to be serving with this group of women - only women - only eight of us. It's just women, who, We felt that doing nothing would be complicit. It's very illustrative that is women stepping up to do the job that the men who are in power should be doing," Filippone said.