La Casa de Paso has been a busy place this month! From Javier’s/La Casa’s vantage point a block from El Chaparral, he sees many new people arrive daily with no idea what to do when they discover they won’t be crossing any time soon. As I mentioned in an earlier report, the challenge for Javier is that many families arriving now are very large multi-generational families. This is new. Recently, he has encountered families of 11 to 14 people. They have left their home and traveled all this way together for a reason, and they do NOT want to be split up in different shelters!
18 people from 3 different countries all staying at La Casa.
The problem is, shelters are already full. Trying to squeeze in an extra 12 people is not an option. In addition, many shelters do not want families with children. Because of the long wait times under very cramped conditions in the shelters (imagine 100 wall-to-wall pop tents), many shelters now limit people in them to one group (e.g., single women, single men, women with children, LGBTQ+, mixed gender families).
There are not nearly enough shelters for any group, but particularly for families that include men, women, and children. And so, he searches for apartments for them in a city that is already full to overflowing. Some days he walks all day looking for a place and finds nothing. If he finds one and can negotiate with the landlord, and if the family feels it will work, La Casa will often pay first/last for them if at least one person in the family will be working and feel they can afford to pay the rent (one of the plusses of multi-generational families).
We hear that about 75 people a day are now crossing into the U.S. from Tijuana. Al Otro Lado (AOL) is working their way through their list and are now calling people who signed up around July 2021. People already on AOL’s list need to update their information if anything changes, especially a phone number. When asylum seekers cross, they go to a hotel in San Diego sponsored by Jewish Family Services until transportation to their ultimate destination is arranged.
New arrivals need to get on AOL’s list immediately (https://alotrolado.org/encuesta) and then prepare to wait a long time. The form asks for a sponsor’s name and address. Sponsors are not required to provide financial support, but it will be extremely difficult for most asylees once here without some financial help for a time.
Yesterday Javier encountered a family from Honduras at the border as he was returning to La Casa after a long day. It was already dusk. Unable to find a shelter for them, he finally brought them back to La Casa for the night. Their sweet two-year-old son was screaming. The mom believed he had a bad case of diaper rash, so Javier went out to get cream for him. The cream didn’t help much; he cried all night, and no one in the house slept that night. Today Javier got a clinic appointment for him. It turns out he also had a serious stomach issue from eating bad food. Javier is trying to find a place for this family.
Today he met a woman who had been suffering with a dislocated shoulder for four months! She said it happened when someone tried to rip her purse off her shoulder in downtown Tijuana and she fought back hard as they yanked on her arm. The photos are gruesome. Imagine being in pain all this time.
Javier took her to the doctor, who said she needed to see a specialist and that it would now require surgery. Javier was told it would cost about $400 US, but he is trying to get a more accurate estimate so we can figure out the best way to proceed. Bottom line: We intend to help. How could we bring her this far and then walk away?
I’ll end with some fantastic news! Do you remember the wonderful asylee family (a mom I’ll call L and her two kids, M and V) who are now in Northern California? A group of men rained bullets through the walls of their living room in southern Mexico one night four years ago, killing her beloved husband in front of her and little V, then 6. The men later said they killed him by mistake; they meant to kill her sister’s husband. L fled with the kids five days later, not even able to stay for his funeral. Javier and I met them the day they arrived at the border, still in shock. Three years later, after enduring more trauma while waiting in Tijuana, she and the kids finally crossed. She went to join her two sisters, but it was impossible to find a decent, affordable place to live. I had a Go Fund Me for them last winter when I found out they were living in a freezing cold unheated garage. We raised enough money to pay the balance owed her immigration lawyer and six months’ rent on an apartment she found in the same building as one of her sisters! Then we organized an Amazon Wish List to furnish the apartment, since she had nothing.
WELL, I drove down to visit them two weeks ago and spent the night. They are doing so well! The apartment is wonderful! I recognized so many items from the Amazon Wish List! They are all SO happy! The kids made me a sign that said “WELCOME SHARON! WE ARE SO GLAD YOU ARE HOME!” How sweet is that?
What a sweet welcome for me!
L got her work permit in the mail the day before after I arrived. M, who was 6 months old when Javier and I met them, is now 4 and started preschool the day after I left. V, now 10, loves her bilingual school!
First day of preschool!
I met L’s sisters, nieces—pretty much everyone in the family made a point to stop by to meet me and to thank me so much for helping L and the kids. I said that it took a lot of people to make this happen, so I pass on their thanks to all of you. It was moving to see the life-changing impact of substantial help like that. Together we enabled her to move into a safe, warm place at a time when no one in her family had the resources to do so. We gave her hope. And now, here she is! L can now work more and legally, since both kids are in school. She is signed up for English classes this fall and has big plans for the future!
Thank you so much for your support. It takes about $2000 a month to keep the house open and to do what we are doing. All money goes to help asylum seekers; no one gets a salary.