Another year has passed without any immigration reform. If anyone is still confused by the chaos at the border, look no further than that. The reality of life for asylum seekers in Tijuana is first fleeing the trauma of violence and death. Then, having made it to Tijuana, they are greeted with a closed border, which leaves them living in limbo in horrible conditions. Many families know that groups of people have followed them and are actively looking for them to do them harm. How many of us could survive that for several years? Can you blame people for trying to cross “illegally?” What would you do if it were you and your children?
Now that Title 42 is still in place for a while longer with no substantial immigration policy, we can expect more of the same. However, it appears that small groups of people are still crossing each day, which at least gives everyone waiting some hope. Javier got a call from a family we helped just a couple months ago. They are now in the United States and called Javier to wish both of us Feliz Navidad! They told him they are doing well and thanked us again for our help. It makes us so happy to get these calls!
About three weeks ago Javier met a family of six from Honduras, a mom and her five children ages 19, 14, 10, 8, and 4. They had been traveling for months. Somewhere on a bus just over the Guatemalan border in Mexico, the bus was hijacked (a common practice), and all six of them were forced off the bus, kidnapped, held for ransom, and much worse. At some point they managed to escape and made their way to Tijuana, hoping to cross the border to be safely with family in California. Imagine how they felt when they arrived and found they could not cross.
Javier saw them and knew at once they were in distress. Traumatized from all they had been through, still the mom trusted Javier enough walk with him to La Casa de Paso where they all could safely rest. They ended up staying the night, all of them sleeping in one of the upstairs bedrooms, because Javier felt it was too cold for them downstairs.
The next morning, as the mom cooked breakfast for the family, Javier went downstairs to introduce me to the little four-year-old girl, who was eager to say hi to me on the phone. She was quite fascinated by this white-haired woman! HAHA Evidently saying hola was not quite enough, because she followed him back upstairs where she stood quietly at his side like a little shadow, hoping to continue our conversation! Javier said she still has burn marks on her little wrists from being tied up. They all do. And those, of course, are just the marks you can see.
Javier walked them over to the border to see if they might be allowed to cross immediately but were told they would need proof of the kidnapping, so the next day Javier took them all to the government office. It required a full day with Javier’s help for the mom to successfully retrieve copies of the police reports, hospital records, and download photos of their injuries off her phone and make copies of them. He stays with families the whole time in these situations. That way he can make sure they are successful in getting the help they need, and he’s there to pay for things if necessary. By the end of a very long day, she had all the documents in hand and they returned to La Casa de Paso. Javier bought the groceries she wanted to cook dinner, and the family spent another night. You can’t imagine how much the simple act of cooking a meal for their family means to every woman who has stayed with us.
The next day Javier set out to find a shelter where they would be safe until they could all cross. It took an entire day to find one and then transport them there. Then it was time to wash all the bedding used by that family so it would be ready for the next one. He called me that night about 7:30. He was super tired but said he felt so happy and relieved that it all worked out.
The next day he met a mom, dad, and three kids in similar circumstances, and so it goes. The day after that was his day to get Pampers, formula, and wipes for moms with infants. Many donated beanies and gloves were handed out recently, with more to come. Today he made a doctor appointment for a 16-year-old girl we know who is very sick. Her mom was worried and called Javier, so tomorrow he will pick them up and take them to the doctor. (I’ve texted the mom and daughter a couple of times since then to check on them. The daughter is feeling better now, and they are both so grateful.)
There you have it—a brief snapshot of La Casa de Paso as 2022 draws to a close. I’ll be returning in a month or so. Thank you all SO much for your support this year. It has allowed this house to continue to exist, and we are so grateful!
Also, here is an update on one asylum family, L and her two kids, now in Northern California, who many of you helped when it was much needed. A year ago she and the kids crossed but ended up renting an unheated garage in the freezing cold winter, the only place she could afford. Thanks to many of you, they are now in a warm, safe apartment. L finally got her work permit, is working steadily, and in December was named Employee of the Month at the restaurant where she works. They love her there! She is also a good chef, and they have used some of her recipes on their menu. Her 10-year-old daughter received a Certificate of Excellence from her school and took part in her school’s holiday program, and her 4-year-old son is happy in his preschool. Both kids are learning English so fast. She is so proud and happy! They all have a bright future now, but just four years ago their world couldn’t have been darker when L’s beloved husband was killed in front of her and her daughter—"by mistake,” she was later told. It is a good reminder that with a little caring and help along the way, families can slowly begin to heal and create a new, good life. Javier and I feel so grateful just to know them.
Who knows what the coming year will bring for families seeking asylum in the United States? Whatever 2023 brings, Javier and I will continue to do what we can to make their lives a little easier until they cross, and above all, let them know someone cares. If you would like to help, please consider donating.
Compassion is a verb.
UPDATE JUST IN! Javier got a call yesterday morning (Jan. 6) from the mom with five kids from Honduras. Guess what? Their paperwork was sufficient documentation, and they are crossing today! **And now, another day later (as I keep updating this!), she called to say they crossed and were safely at a hotel in San Diego, waiting for the results of the routine COVID test and then they would be on their way to family. She was so thankful and excited to tell him. What great good news! I think it’s important to know these happy stories as well as all the ones that make us cry, and somehow hold both simultaneously in our hearts. Knowing that the help we give can make a big difference most definitely keeps us going!