A Report from the Tijuana Border
For Javier, every day in Tijuana starts early, about 4 a.m. to be exact. It’s been part of his routine for many decades and is nothing new, even though various sounds summon even the most resistant risers—the constant whine of emergency vehicle sirens (especially these days), the serenade of loud music from all-night parties and restaurants getting ready for the day, and the yapping of the Border Patrol dogs caged only a couple of blocks from La Casa de Paso.
Javier walked over to El Chaparral yesterday around 7 a.m., as he does every day. He always finds people there needing help, and seldom is anyone but him there to answer questions, take them to the doctor, help them find shelter, get a prescription filled, or help them send for important papers. This morning though, he saw his friend Bonnie, a volunteer and activist from Iowa who was happy to run into him. She had oranges and milk in her car and wanted to deliver it to a shelter but didn’t know where to go. They hopped in her truck and Javier directed her to one nearby.
This shelter holds more than 100 men, women, and children. As always, they gratefully accepted her donation. However, in talking to the women in charge, Javier heard they were out of so many other food items that he finally said (like the GOOD man he is), “Just give me a list! We’ll go get everything on it.” And so they did.
Javier said Bonnie couldn’t believe what he bought (thanks to your donations) and loaded in her truck. Huge boxes full of bananas; 50-pound bags of tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, and potatoes; mangoes; giant round blocks of cheese; jugs of cooking oil; cereal; and boxes of eggs (each box holds 12 dozen).
Usually, to be safe, Javier delivers food to the door of shelters but does not go inside. However, he said he wanted to carry in everything today because there were so many heavy items. And that is how the kids in the shelter spied him and literally rushed up to greet him. They know him because he used to come there regularly and do yoga with them. He said they all started talking at once, reminding him what he’d taught them so many months before. They were anxious to show him what they remembered and could still do.
As he told me, “I know it wasn’t the safest decision, but what else could I do?” So for the next hour there he was, down on the floor in a crowded shelter with kids gathered around (clearly NOT social distancing as you can see!!) doing yoga with them. The kids were so happy, but I know for a fact because I’ve witnessed this so many times that Javier was at least as happy as the kids. He loves them and misses being with them so much. I worry about him at times like this, and I get to practice letting go of my fear and visualizing him staying safe.
A few hours after Bonnie dropped him back at La Casa de Paso, Laura called to say she was at the door with hundreds of face masks that Jill had dropped off at her house in San Diego for her to drive across the border to La Casa for Javier to distribute. (See how it literally takes a village?!) He said these masks are beautiful, especially the ones made for kids.
Speaking of beautiful, Javier also took more of the baby quilts made by Laurie Parsio in Springfield, OR with him to this shelter to give to families with babies (including a few newborns). They loved them and were so grateful!
It was a long, exhausting day for Javier but the kind of day that makes him the very happiest, even though the circumstances are so dire. Asylum seekers are increasingly stressed and worried. They wonder when the border will be open again, their fears amplified now by the added dangers of COVID, with more cases and deaths increasing every day. The morgues and hospital ERs in Tijuana are full and, like here, there is no nationwide plan for dealing with the pandemic.
For the thousands of asylum seekers who must endure this time with no end in sight, knowing that people care and are willing to help (and for no pay, which always shocks them) means everything. To say they are thankful is an understatement. And as we always say, we feel like we are the lucky ones for the privilege of knowing them. So, once again, thank you all so much for what you do that enables us to do what we are doing. As I say when talking to groups:
Some people can travel; others can raise money.
Some people can generate resources; others can spread the word.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,
and together we can do a LOT.
If you wish to donate, you can do so through Donorbox on our home page, or through PayPal (PayPal.Me/shar01) or Venmo (@SharonFranklin27). If you have questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compassion is a verb.