Good News from the Resistance: Last week, Good News met up with Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden in Texas. By the time we joined them, most of the Grannies had been on the road for a week, originating in New York, Oregon, Michigan, and points between. They’d stopped for rallies along the way, raising awareness about the collateral damage of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy: separated families, detained and orphaned children. We met the Grannies in San Antonio, for the 4-hour drive to McAllen, the last leg of their journey.
Why McAllen? Hundreds of immigrants, many of them asylum-seeking families and children, are being detained there. We went to learn.
First, there was Bad News:
Shortly after our arrival, 100+ of us stood in a park in downtown McAllen, where we were greeted by Veteran Service Corp Director of Operations Pate Hutson. Pate had spent the previous two weeks traveling the Texas border and meeting with hundreds of people, to get a sense of what life is like for residents of the Rio Grande Valley. He told us:
“The fear is palpable here. This is real. What’s going on here is not what you hear about. There is a lot to learn. It’s about what you can take home and talk about with your neighbors. Listen. Because it matters.”
We learned that most of our current immigration policy is not new. What’s new is the aggressive nature of enforcement under the Trump administration, which has resulted in:
- forced family separation,
- criminalization of the act of seeking asylum,
- human rights-violating detainment practices, and
- choices no human should ever have to make.
After our briefing, we set off on the Refugee Walk of Significance, tracing the steps taken by immigrants (mostly from Central America, but lately a significant uptick from Cuba) who are “caught and released” by Border Patrol.
First stop: The infamous McAllen bus station, where Border Patrol releases the “lucky” ones – but not before fitting each with an ankle bracelet. With no money, food, or English, there is nonetheless a glimmer of Good News at the bus depot: Samaritans like Luis Guerrero, a former firefighter who volunteers from the station 24/7, and meets every bus.
As we approached the station, a bus full of “released” immigrants had just arrived, many carrying children. As they disembarked, we gave them a standing ovation, clapping and shouting “bienvenidos!” (Thankfully, our guide explained to them who we were – the last thing we wanted was to scare anyone. The smiles indicated we were understood).
Next stop: Catholic Charities Respite Center. Luis and other volunteers direct the newcomers to the Center, a few blocks away. There, volunteers see that everyone gets a shower, a meal, and a bed for one night. They also receive a backpack filled with toiletries, snacks, and small toys for the children.
For many, this will be all that they have to sustain them through their bus ride out of McAllen — to anywhere in the U.S. where they know someone who has agreed to sponsor them. Who gets to leave the detention centers? Who is separated from their children? Who is sent back to their country of origin? It’s a mystery.
There is one constant: Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to raise the bar on who gets to stay; “credible fear” for asylum-seekers is harder to prove, and bail is being set at unattainable levels.
After walking by the bus depot, visiting the Respite Center, stuffing backpacks for “the released,”
we ended our visit with a panel discussion led by front-line advocates. There, we learned that many are profiting off of the immigration crisis, which has become a revenue stream for private-sector prison companies.
“Our tax dollars are paying private companies to put children in prison.”
A few Grannies tried, unsuccessfully, to visit the Ursula detention center in McAllen, a former warehouse that was modified to hold up to 1,000 children in cages made of chain-link fencing. It’s known as “the refrigerator,” because it is kept so cold.
Here’s as close as they could get:
The Good News? Resistance against the Trump Administration’s immigration crisis nightmare is strong and multi-faceted. Public outcry, the ACLU, and outraged judges have forced the Administration to halt some of its most barbaric actions. Immigration advocates on the ground are well-organized and know what needs to be done. It’s up to us, the Resisters, to help them, and to keep up the fight. Here’s why and how:
- Meet the original New York Grannies and see them off from Union Square, NYC
- Watch Luis greet “the released” at the bus station
- Say hello to the Angry Tias & Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley
- Learn about these young activists who’ve set up a protest camp outside a children’s detention center
- Thank Catholic Charities for creating a Respite Center in McAllen
- See how the Sisters of Divine Providence live their motto, “Welcome the Stranger”
- Sign up with the Texas Civil Rights Project to learn how you can help
- Be grateful that this mother and 5-year old son were reunited
- Use your dollars and voice: Help Beto O’Rourke unseat Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz
- Take Action: Volunteer or donate to help asylum-seekers in U.S. ports of entry
Sign Up. Show Up. Never Give Up.