Knowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would drop off any released detainees at the bus station in Brownsville, Texas around 4 a.m., Rev. Sharmin DeMoss of Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries and I arrived about 6:45 a.m. and found a group of 16 people who were being assisted by volunteers from Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, a ministry of the United Methodist Church in Brownsville. They provided each person with a care package for their respective journeys to sponsors. The sponsors might be family, friends, or volunteers willing to provide them with room, board, and transportation to all check-ins with immigration officials and eventually to their asylum hearings. Most of the 16 were awaiting bus transportation. A few would be taken to the airport for flights to the locations of their respective sponsors. Rev. DeMoss made some good contacts with the volunteers from Good Neighbor Settlement House that will facilitate future collaborative work.
There are three bridges across the Rio Grande River connecting Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, and there are groups camped at two of the bridges in Matamoros waiting to enter the U.S. to seek asylum. At the bus station we learned that one of the ministries of Good Neighbor Settlement House, in addition to volunteering at the bus station, is to provide breakfast and lunch, toys for any children, and other supplies while the people wait. Because food is only provided in the morning and evening, it was suggested we could possibly take them some midday snacks. So, after a trip to the store, we walked across one of the bridges into Matamoros with our snacks, crayons, coloring books, and ibuprofen because of the headaches people were experiencing waiting in the heat. We found the group of sixteen Cuban asylum seekers. While we were there two Mexican border officials came and announced that four of the individuals were being allowed to enter the U.S. and begin the long process of attempting to obtain asylum. They most likely will be detained at one of the detention facilities, however, while in detention they hopefully will pass their credible fear interviews and eventually be at the bus station like the 16 people we saw earlier.
So despite my anger and frustration with the immigration policies and practices of our current administration and with our broken immigration system, it was heartwarming to see at least these 20 people moving forward toward possible asylum with some hope.