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Report from the Tijuana Border • March 2022

Sharon Franklin


All the tents at El Chaparral are gone. The process of moving everyone out of El Chaparral was traumatizing for asylum seekers living there, even though there had been some warning that it would occur. It may be hard for many of us to even imagine being in a situation where you have no decent options. You’ve left your home after violence left you devastated and running for your life, perhaps with a child or two or three and maybe several generations in tow. Or you fled by yourself with no one to help you, praying you could make it across the border to family in the U.S. Now you find yourself in Mexico, a country or city that is foreign to you. You don’t have money to support yourself, and unless you have MX citizenship you cannot get a work permit. Your children wander around, losing years of schooling, while you desperately look for a safe place until you cross. For months, that “safe place” (in your mind) was in a tent in El Chaparral. Until it wasn’t.


A few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, about 100 police and military descended on the people in the tents in a blaze of force complete with camo, dogs, and AK-47s, ordering everyone to get up and get ready to leave. It was terrifying—imagine that happening to you! People had no time to organize and pack their belongings. As a result, many people left many of their belongings behind, including important documents. They were loaded onto buses and driven to a shelter, or shelters—one for single men, one for women (or women with children), and one for families.


Javier had more than a dozen phone calls already by 9:00 the next morning from people wanting to know what was going to happen. Can you find us a house? I had to leave my papers; can you help me get more? In general, shelters are safer than the tents for sure, and they are out of the elements; however, it’s cramped and uncomfortable, and once again they have no idea what is going to happen next.


Meanwhile, back at El Chaparral, new people are still coming every day. They wander around, not sure what to do now that they have reached the border. Javier is there most every day, helping them in any way he can.


Recently a woman called, panicked and pleading for his help. Her 8-year-old daughter had been raped by a man she knew. She called the police and he is in jail, but now his family is threatening serious harm to her and her two children if she continues with a case against him. Javier spent the whole day trying to find a safe place for them. By nightfall he had found nothing; all the shelters are full. When we talked last night, we agreed that it wasn’t safe for him to have her in the house with people actively looking to harm her. We decided to pay for a hotel room for them for a few nights until he could find them a room. This morning told me he thought of someone who might have a room. (This is why he doesn’t sleep well many nights; his brain does not turn off.) He explained his idea that the woman needing a place to stay could cook and clean for the woman he knows who has the room. He is an excellent creative thinker and superb at negotiating. It worked! He spent the next day getting them settled in with the basics of what they needed.


It is terrible to keep good, kind, hardworking people in limbo for years. Nothing good can happen from this lack of a sound policy. Kids’ schooling is disrupted; stability is nowhere to be found; depression and anxiety heighten. We need a solution; at the very least, a START. It is hard to live without hope, and I can imagine that for many families at the border, hope is running thin.


Meanwhile, I have heard from several families who did cross. Most of them are happy and doing well. And the family for whom a GoFundMe was organized is so thankful to everyone!! She said the kids are sleeping well for the first time in so long. They want to learn to cook—even her son, who is not quite 3! It is hard to understate what it means for her to have a nice, safe, clean place to live, the first since she fled her home three years ago. The kids love having a real bed with sheets. They love the bathroom. They love helping to clean. They love sitting on chairs and eating at a table. Here is what she wrote about the table:


“It’s very rewarding and wonderful. I had a long time since … I didn’t feel in a real home. The children are very happy. They already sat down and want to have dinner to sit in the chairs.”


And this:


“Today ___ (her son) did something very funny he took an egg out of the refrigerator and he only put it in the [pan] he went to the room and said mommy come and cook an egg lol the frying pan was cold how curious he knew how to break the shell … he will be a good cook!”


It is not an easy time, but there is always a lot to be grateful for. Thank you so much for your continuing support.



Report from the Tijuana Border • March 2022

Sharon Franklin


All the tents at El Chaparral are gone. The process of moving everyone out of El Chaparral was traumatizing for asylum seekers living there, even though there had been some warning that it would occur. It may be hard for many of us to even imagine being in a situation where you have no decent options. You’ve left your home after violence left you devastated and running for your life, perhaps with a child or two or three and maybe several generations in tow. Or you fled by yourself with no one to help you, praying you could make it across the border to family in the U.S. Now you find yourself in Mexico, a country or city that is foreign to you. You don’t have money to support yourself, and unless you have MX citizenship you cannot get a work permit. Your children wander around, losing years of schooling, while you desperately look for a safe place until you cross. For months, that “safe place” (in your mind) was in a tent in El Chaparral. Until it wasn’t.


A few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, about 100 police and military descended on the people in the tents in a blaze of force complete with camo, dogs, and AK-47s, ordering everyone to get up and get ready to leave. It was terrifying—imagine that happening to you! People had no time to organize and pack their belongings. As a result, many people left many of their belongings behind, including important documents. They were loaded onto buses and driven to a shelter, or shelters—one for single men, one for women (or women with children), and one for families.


Javier had more than a dozen phone calls already by 9:00 the next morning from people wanting to know what was going to happen. Can you find us a house? I had to leave my papers; can you help me get more? In general, shelters are safer than the tents for sure, and they are out of the elements; however, it’s cramped and uncomfortable, and once again they have no idea what is going to happen next.


Meanwhile, back at El Chaparral, new people are still coming every day. They wander around, not sure what to do now that they have reached the border. Javier is there most every day, helping them in any way he can.


Recently a woman called, panicked and pleading for his help. Her 8-year-old daughter had been raped by a man she knew. She called the police and he is in jail, but now his family is threatening serious harm to her and her two children if she continues with a case against him. Javier spent the whole day trying to find a safe place for them. By nightfall he had found nothing; all the shelters are full. When we talked last night, we agreed that it wasn’t safe for him to have her in the house with people actively looking to harm her. We decided to pay for a hotel room for them for a few nights until he could find them a room. This morning he told me he thought of someone who might have a room. (This is why he doesn’t sleep well many nights; his brain does not turn off.) He explained his idea that the woman needing a place to stay could cook and clean for the woman he knows who has the room. He is an excellent creative thinker and superb at negotiating. It worked! He spent the next day getting them settled in with the basics of what they needed.


It is terrible to keep good, kind, hardworking people in limbo for years. Nothing good can happen from this lack of a sound policy. Kids’ schooling is disrupted; stability is nowhere to be found; depression and anxiety heighten. We need a solution; at the very least, a START. It is hard to live without hope, and I can imagine that for many families at the border, hope is running thin.


Meanwhile, I have heard from several families who did cross. Most of them are happy and doing well. And the family for whom a GoFundMe was organized is so thankful to everyone!! She said the kids are sleeping well for the first time in so long. They want to learn to cook—even her son, who is not quite 3! It is hard to understate what it means for her to have a nice, safe, clean place to live, the first since she fled her home three years ago. The kids love having a real bed with sheets. They love the bathroom. They love helping to clean. They love sitting on chairs and eating at a table. Here is what she wrote about the table:


“It’s very rewarding and wonderful. I had a long time since … I didn’t feel in a real home. The children are very happy. They already sat down and want to have dinner to sit in the chairs.”


And this:


“Today ___ (her son) did something very funny he took an egg out of the refrigerator and he only put it in the [pan] he went to the room and said mommy come and cook an egg lol the frying pan was cold how curious he knew how to break the shell … he will be a good cook!”


It is not an easy time, but there is always a lot to be grateful for. Thank you so much for your continuing support.

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