🚨🙏🏽Call to help🙏🏽🚦. Please help me ring in my 40th birthday 🎁 🎉by donating (Venmo, go fund me, PayPal link directly at bottom) so I can help the desperately traumatized and abused immigrants at the border by reading my phone interview below. 😭This is a crisis of epic proportions. We’ve all heard about what’s going on at the border but as much as I feel like I’ve been keeping up to date, reading voraciously on the topic and watching the news, I’ve been constantly searching for real first person accounts where I can TRUST the source. And now I have that person. Her name is Jeni and she is currently at the El Paso Border Crossing.
We are 2 degrees of separation away from witnessing with our own eyes and helping with our own hands, the immigrant families who are arriving at the border and being detained in El Paso. I spent an hour on the phone this morning interviewing my friend Jeni who is currently volunteering in El Paso at the border with an amazing immigrant volunteer organization called the Annunciation House.
Before I tell you the details of the phone call, here’s the spoiler alert- at the end I’m going to shamelessly ask you to donate at least $5 directly to Jeni or to me so I can help Jeni, so she can be on the ground making miracles happen and plugging much needed holes of support. But before I do that let me back up and tell you what I’ve learned.
I met Jeni at the Kavanaugh protests, she was one of the star protesters arrested several times defending our democracy, and so after we stayed in contact. We went on to knocking on doors in Texas for Beto, and she was the one who helped Dylan when she sprained her ankle in DC at the Women’s March in Jan. A week ago Jeni, with $50 to her bank account raised a few bucks from our protester family and left her job and home to go to El Paso to volunteer at the Annunciation House.
The Anunciation house is…”On [any] morning in El Paso, a Customs and Border Protection agent [rings] the doorbell of Annunciation House, a nonprofit that provides support to immigrants. Shelters serving immigrants often lock horns with immigration authorities, but Annunciation House and Customs and Border Protection have formed an unusual partnership, prompted in part by the large numbers of immigrants crossing the border near El Paso and the effects of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
When the federal agency’s facilities are overflowing, agents bring immigrants who have been released from custody to the two-story, brick building next to the Mexican Consulate.
“This building is the Ellis Island of the Southwest border,” said Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House.
Some immigrants stay for days or weeks, while others swiftly move on to live with relatives as their case is being adjudicated.
“We tell them the rules of the house and explain they are not in detention,” Polstein said. “They have the choice to stay or go with family.”
For four decades the nonprofit has provided shelter to thousands of immigrants looking for work in the United States and those entangled in immigration proceedings. Annunciation House took on a national profile this summer as the federal government scrambled to reunite thousands of migrants who were separated from their children after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
In El Paso, the attention has brought more support and donations, and the building is brimming with donated food, clothing and diapers. Some donors have purchased bus tickets so immigrants could travel to relatives throughout Texas or out of state.
Garcia and his staff of 12 volunteers have teamed up with a network of about 40 churches and immigrant rights advocates in El Paso to provide a temporary home and support for thousands of immigrants. Together, they have witnessed the reunification of parents and their children”
The Annunciation House will give you room and board if you dedicate at least 2 weeks of your time, (you stay at the hotels the immigrant families stay at and eat the same food they are given) the turnover makes it a challenge for them to take any less time than that for free. Here is their link: https://annunciationhouse.org/
If you are paying your way, they will desperately taking any sort of help/time/days you can offer- whether it’s financial, donating supplies, driving the immigrant families to the airports/bus station, playing with the children, helping check the families in as they arrive, making care packages, bringing kids to the doctor, pharmacy runs, Costco runs etc… the following is my recollection of the conversation with my paraphrasing.
[Is it what you expected? Better, worse? Is the media portraying it accurately? At least the liberal media]NO! It is way WAY worse then I expected. There’s a continuous influx. Everyday we get around 100 new individuals/families. They are all families. All families with children. There are no words to describe what I’m seeing people don’t understand how bad it is. It’s horrible Alethea.
[Jeni, why haven’t you been able to update us? Why is no one posting more pictures and videos so we can see the truth of what’s happening there? We need to and want to see more!] Unfortunately, if we post pictures of their faces it can affect their asylum cases. It kills me, all I want to do is show everyone what these people look like when they arrive to us. They are filthy, ragged, dusty, deflated, their eyes are traumatized, sad, scared, crying…
[What about the kids? How are they? What do they look like] Very bad, very very bad. They are cranky, they are crying a lot, they are tired and sad and scared. Very tired. The parents are exhausted you can see it on their faces. The parents cry a lot. The adults and kids are sick. Most arrive sick. They’ve been walking for weeks in cold horrible conditions. They come in to us coughing, with runny noses, diarrhea, Vomiting, fevers. They are constantly cold. Many of the women have yeast infections and urinary tract infections from not being able to shower for quite some time. Last night I had to go to the pharmacy to get seizure medication for a young woman? [why?? How did she not have] The ICE officials or whatever border officials she dealt with in detention threw them away. [wait. How? Why? Why would they do that?] I don’t know but it’s the same reason that when the migrants were being held under the bridge, every 2 hours they were sprayed with hoses with cold water and their jackets were taken away. As punishment. As Cruelty. It’s unthinkable. This is our America.
[Speaking of the people under the bridge why can’t you just go rogue and get close to them before they are taken in. Can’t you go up to them and hand out food and talk to them? And interview them and get their accounts?] Not even a chance. You can’t get anywhere near them. ICE keeps you far far away from getting anywhere close so there’s no way to document what’s going on at the border. There are levels of security and secrecy. Fencing and barricades. Constant lying where they tell protesters that they are closing an area down, so they leave. And then when everyone leaves they open them back up again. We’re constantly trying to track the areas but it’s difficult to understand what’s going on. When we went to see the “outdoor detention facility” under the walking bridge, we were not on the bridge, we were on the sidewalk outside the border patrol facility to walk down a sidewalk that leads you closer to under the bridge. We tried to catch glimpses of the migrants and film but a border patrol car flipped on the sirens and over the loud speaker shouted to us to back up and not continue further. [even though it was a public walking area?] yep! The next day we were free to walk there. They must have been hiding something they didn’t want us to see.
[Wait so I don’t understand. The people you are interacting with at what point in the process are they. When do you receive them?] When they are apprehended or turn themselves in the border and seek asylum they go to detention for anywhere from 3 to 10 days they are put in iceboxes which we now know are basically big cold refrigerator rooms. The information is taken and then their sponsors are contacted they have ankle bracelets and paper bracelets on their wrists. Also only those brought to us by ICE have ankle bracelets – ICE has a contract with the manufacturer, Border Patrol does not. Once all that information is taken they all released into El Paso. Around Xmas you might have heard they were being released in the middle of the night in the winter on the streets by the bus load with no money and no anything. Stranded shivering with no food clothes money, nothing. It seems like they stopped that evil process and are coordinating somewhat with immigrant groups like Annunciation House. So every morning we have a list of 75 to 100 new people that are coming. The first thing they do when we arrive is we tell them we are not the government and we hug them. They cry we cry (all day long) we tell them they are safe we won’t hurt them, we will help them. Even after they’ve been treated despicably by now by our government they are so so thankful when they arrive with us. They are helpful, they come together like a community with their new fellow migrants. They sweep the floors they serve food to each other the moms help the single dads. We give them donated meals and snacks. We are there to facilitate their first phone calls with the sponsors. This is the first moment that they get to speak to their Families in America.
[Whats that experience like listening to these phone calls?] it’s a mix of emotions we cry with them, they are happy they are excited they get to FaceTime, it’s a beautiful thing. [wait who pays for the next part of the journey] Ya ok so we mediate and facilitate the family members to purchase airplane tickets or greyhound bus tickets. The issue is now we need DRIVERS to bring them to the departure destinations. We walk them in to the desks, explain where to go and what gates and make sure they are ok and safe at the travel desks. Last night, on Saturday night I sent 80 texts out begging drivers to help. By 11pm we had all the rides set. [wow that’s a miracle]. See this is why I don’t have time to update you guys. There’s just so much to do. ALL.
[So what do you mean? Why can’t you tell us what’s going on? And speaking of what’s going on have u heard all the depressing news stories coming out this week?] NO! nothing! See that’s the thing my day starts at 7am and goes till 11pm. In a weird way it’s a welcome respite from the psychotic news cycle. There’s no time to watch tv let alone keep abreast of what’s going on. I’m here to do my job and to help these people, all day long. There’s no time to eat and drink. I do my best. We get dehydrated but we need to be careful ourselves. There’s just not enough hours of the day and there’s endless stories to tell, I don’t even know where to begin. There’s just not enough time. It’s overwhelming.
[Ok so now it’s time for them to leave. What happens? ] Well first when they arrive to us, we cut their paper bracelets off. They are free. Not abused animals anymore, they are humans with dignity, it’s a beautiful thing to see our pile of cut off bracelets. I love cutting them off. The babies have bracelets too. After we arrange their transportation it’s time to make them care packages. They consist of 2 pbj sandwiches a day. That’s all we can afford. Depending on the donations and snacks we try to load them up with snacks and drinks. Don’t forget everyone has kids with them so we’re trying to also make sure the kids are prepared for the trek as well. Also some people are taking bus trips that are several days long we have families going to Rhode Island from El Paso, we do our best with the current amount of food donations we have, many times the amount runs low. It’s sickening to know they are trapped on busses just the food we are able to provide them. Just yesterday I had to send a man on a bus with 3 young kids. He was crying he had no money nothing. I’m down to bare bones in my account but what could I do? I gave him one of my last $20s. Today I have to run out and buy 2 little boys pants. [Wait how do they not have pants? It’s just 4 bare legs running around the facility? ] Yep, T-shirt and diapers. No pants. Nothing. They need pants before they leave. Moms need formula and diapers for the babies. We’re at the mercy of donations. The call went out and we needed toothbrushes now we have more then we need. But there’s other needs now. There’s never enough clothes and shoes. We need feminine supplies. Deodorant.
[Oh right, What about the women?] It is so bad for them Alethea. One mother, with the stress in the ice box, her milked dried up after a few days. The baby was a few months old. The ice officials didn’t give the baby any formula for 3 days? [what!!! That’s outrageous! So the baby cried for 3 days???] yes when she arrived to us, the baby had a high fever, we thought it would die, but miraculously it came around, and is better. That was an extremely hard family to say goodbye to we were all crying tremendously. That one hurt. We had another mother, actually 4 mothers arrive to us who were 8 months pregnant. One mother gave birth 4 days after she arrived at the border. The baby was only 4 pounds. It’s beyond human comprehension of the will to survive and what they must be running from to walk 8 months pregnant. Can you imagine? It kills me to imagine. The women have it very bad. They are abused and tortured along the way.
[Tell me more about families you met.] I had one dad walk through 3 jungles and the dessert with his 3 little kids. I had one lady who had eye surgery, she had a huge dent in her head and a bandaged blind eye, leave 8 days after surgery! Can you comprehend walking in this condition?
[Jeni. You are scaring me. This sounds like utter hell. I want to come and help but I don’t think I can emotionally handle what your describing to me. I will be traumatized. I’m not strong enough for this. I will cry all the time]Alethea it is the most amazing experience it will change your life for the better, I can’t describe to you how every little thing we are doing all day is changing their lives, is making them smile for the first time, is giving them hope. It’s ok to cry. It makes them also feel human to see that emotion from us as well. We play with the kids, we give out lollipops, they are so happy with us. We bought stuffed animals and dolls and balls. The kids smile. It’s a lot of sadness but so much happiness. Don’t be afraid of coming. It is so SAFE. I’ve never ever felt anything less than safe. I’m more afraid of leaving then coming. I can’t Unknow what I know. I’m afraid to go back to “life as usual” when I know how impactful I am being here. No one knows what’s going on, I wish people could see, we need all hands on deck we need people to come COME COME. Please come. You won’t regret it.
[Jeni answer me this. I know you posted about donating to the Annunciation house, and people if they are able to do both should donate to them but here’s my question. You are eyes on the ground you see the holes that need to be plugged. I’m imagine it like a sifter, with water leaking out in all directions. If you had your own funds could you plug the holes. I feel like maybe people can also donate to you as well as the AH. ] There’s so many holes I can plug. For example I can go buy the boys pants. I can run out to McDonald’s and give the kids a heartier meal then pbj for their journey, I could give some of the neediest families a $20 to send them on their way. I can get some more snacks when we need it at Costco it’s just down the road. I can replenish some toys. My hands feel so tied.
[Jeni it reminds me of when I was in DC that 2nd week for Kavanaugh, and CPD and Women’s March was doing God’s work incredible things, but when I was there with my own eyes I was able to fill in the gaps, and be an emergency miracle maker. Thankfully the donations kept pouring through so I could put the small fires out as they came] That’s exactly how I feel Alethea. I have so many ideas I wish I could contact the local catering companies and arrange for them to deliver leftover food, I want to contact local produce shops and see if they will donate fruits and veggies. So many ideas so little time. [looks like we need to get you an assistant and some dough to make these miracles happen].
[Jeni I’m gonna heavily consider coming to meet you when you come back in May and we’re gonna have to figure out a way to safely document so people see the gravity of their situation. In the meantime let’s see what money we can raise. Honestly anything is better than nothing. You give me the info and I’ll get the word out and we will take it from there. In the meantime, go forth and continue doing amazing things. Love you!]
And that was it. It was 8am El Paso time so she had to get her day started. The goal of this post was to give you a real glimpse of what is going on at the border. I’m assuming if you got this far you have compassion and empathy and are of a similar mentality to myself where we care about our fellow humans and don’t think we are any better then non-Americans. Our ancestors have all immigrated from different parts of the world and that’s what makes America such an amazing diverse beautiful place to live. I’m also assuming you disagree with caging children and family separation and drugging children and mentally abusing and traumatizing children so I’m gonna assume we’re on the same page. If you wish you could help but you don’t even know where to begin, if you wish you could go but don’t want to go/can’t go/scared to go/ can’t leave your family or work here’s is a VERY tangible way to make a difference. We can’t save the world but you can be the whole world to one desperate and scared human being who deserves a basic fighting chance at survival. It’s worth reminding that those of us who were born in America are part of the lucky zip code club or the lucky
Sperm club. We didn’t ask to be born, and we certainly didn’t ask to be born in America yet here we are so blindly unaware of how lucky we are to even just be able to walk out the door everyday and be alive. It can not be more simply said. To be able to have a roof over our heads, even if it’s leaky, to have food in our cabinets, even if it isnt the best, and to have safety and educational opportunities to raise our children free of constant fear of death or abuse or extortion or kidnapping or recruiting into gang life is really the ultimate privilege. We outta pay it forward. I hope you join me and consider even a $5 donation. Just think what that simple act of kindness can do for one person. The skies the limits ❤️
Here’s how you can donate:
-Go Fund me link
-any other way you would like to donate: cash, check etc I’m open
I will not be taking any of this money to fund my trip 100% of the money raised will directly be used on the immigrants we encounter. I’m going to come up with a plan of action to get on the ground hopefully in Mid May, and see the best way money can be spent, as well as transferring money to Jeni who is there right now and is in desperate need of funds to directly help these poor suffering families she’s dealing with everyday. I strongly believe in good Karma do you? Imagine as a team what we will be able to do together. Thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart for reading this and donating and helping me ring in my 40th birthday in the best way possible that’s truest to my heart! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜