Barbara at Brownsville

The following post is an email written by my mother, Barbara Smith. She is currently in Brownsville, TX helping to feed and clothe 600 asylum seekers waiting for their court hearing to give them entrance to the USA. Reading her email, I wanted to share it with more people to bring awareness on what is happening at the Mexican-USA Border. With Barbara’s permission, I post her emails. 

When this post moves you, please share it and donate to Team Brownsville at Go Fund Me. 

Feeding 600 People

Thursday, Sept 18
Brownsville, TX

“So I finally made it.

Yesterday was a whirl.  Started at 9 with our shopping trips – it took 3 trips to fit all the food we needed as my partner Julia and I were faced with feeding 600 people that night.  – 75 packs of hotdogs, 25 packs of buns, 1000 packets of mustard and ketchup, 600 bags of chips, 600 snacks and 100 pounds of oranges and grapes plus the bags and trays for the food.  We kept the cost to about $1.10 per person.
 
Then the prep.  Luckily five more volunteers showed up for the prep.  We cooked 600 hot dogs, placed each in a bun, and wrapped them in foil. In 600 bags we included snacks and condiments.  We cut 50 pounds of oranges.  At at 5 pm we pack it all and drove to the bus station.  More volunteers show up so now we are at 12.  It takes 11 wagons to carry all the food across the border at 6:15.  Crossing with us is “Acupuncture without Borders” – a group of about 8 acupuncturists.
 
 

Crossing the Border

Crossing was no big deal- $1.in quarters, the first wagon gets checked and the rest just go through.  
 
And then the camp – hundreds of people in tents on the concrete.  The folks are already lined up and clap when we arrive.  Two lines – one of women and children and the other of men (a few with kids). We start the serving food – one hot dog, a bag of chips, a snack bar, and 2 grapes with an orange slice. Most of these folks don’t get lunch. Often the snack bars are saved for the kids so they can have something for lunch the next day.  The men wait until the women and children are fed, though sometimes there’s not enough so some don’t get fed at all.  We finish at 7, cross back and the day is done.
 
 

Close to Half the Asylum Seekers Are Kids

The kids will break your heart – the ones who give a big smile at the sight of an orange slice and the ones who are just blank.  Probably close to half of the folks we saw are kids.  The families stay together and the single men stay on the other side of a fence – a place we have been told never to go.  The only bathing and washing facility is the Rio Grande.  There are 4 port-a-potties for 600 plus people.  
 
 

Waiting For Their Court Date

The population that lives on the other side of the bridge is growing exponentially. After they finally get to request asylum, they get sent back to wait for their court date, which takes place in the tent city that has been created with the video judges.  Folks have to line up 4 hours in advance, so if you have an 8:30 court date, you (and your kids) have to line up at 4:30 AM and wait.  This means that you might miss breakfast. (Team Brownsville pays a restaurant in Mexico to provide breakfast every day)    
 
 
How this ad-hoc team in Brownsville has been able to keep this up for over a year is heroic.  There is a steady flow of out of town volunteers who come from everywhere. Last night included locals, folks from Austin, TX, Indiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ottawa. But even with this help, Team Brownsville volunteers are exhausted.  When they started caring for the migrants, they thought it would be a short-term crisis.  Now it is over a year and no one knows how this is going to end. 
 
Glad I am here but thinking this might be the toughest one yet
 
Barbara
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