Tonight was humbling. We drove from Austin to Brownsville to volunteer with a group called Angry Tias y Abuelas. They work to help asylum seekers as they work through the process of coming to the US. Mostly from Spanish speaking countries, they are coming to find a better life for themselves and their families.
When they get to the border, they are given a number or appointment for their hearing. There are many of them and sometimes they might take a while to get to the next step. A few days at most for the majority; some longer. On the Mexican side there are two facilities where they can stay while waiting. Both buildings are at maximum capacity. Some of these people do not want to leave the bridge area in fear of not being there when their number is finally called. So they sleep in the open. Mexican officials have a small room which has been temporarily turned into a refuge, but it is not a proper space. No bathrooms, no cots, no nothing.
Groups like Angry Tias and Team Brownsville have formed as a way of taking needed supplies to those who stay in this no-mans land. We were 10 people tonight in our group and had three wagons filled with donations and foods. Church’s Chicken donated a lot of food and we fed about 40-50 people fried chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. They were excited to see us and seemed to be expecting the donated food. Many got back in line for seconds. We were running out of plates but still had food. They would get back in line but not bring the plate, perhaps thinking we would not realize they’d gotten a meal already. We served until it was all gone.
There were about a dozen tents set up, some with several people in them. Some babies and small children. We also handed out wipes, energy drinks, infant formula.
One of the volunteers said it was the coldest night they’d had all year. Our hands were freezing as we dished out food, but we knew we were going home to a warm bed. None of them knew that. It was humbling.