On Sunday afternoons I interview asylum seekers who are living in Reynosa, Mexico, a city across from McAllen, Texas, and one of the most dangerous places in the world. I am helping a team of attorneys move the asylum seekers along a tortuous legal path to their rightful asylum hearing in the United States.
The stories have an astonishing amount of trauma. This is amplified when the person is from Haiti, and I must depend upon a translator. I understand pieces of the Haitian Creole–the words for “rape” and “assault” and “assassination.” The horrors of those experiences are then amplified in the retelling of the testimony in Spanish (“violación” “asalto” asesinato”). Which, for a third time I am allowed to consider as I render them into English for the report.
What does not make it on paper are the quiet sobs of the 18-year-old who was raped by three men as they made their way through the infamous Darién Gap between Columbia and Panama. Nor the quiet rage of the man whose wife was raped in front of him and his eight year old daughter over the course of a month in a warehouse on the banks of the Rio Grande. Or the desperation in the voice of the mother of an eight year old whose asthma throttles her child, a woman who concludes her testimony with a guttural “please help my child.”
At the same time, it is also hard to capture the powerful hope that permeates the group that has gathered to be interviewed. There is a Honduran physician (also an asylum seeker) working with the translator, a Haitian who speaks four languages with aplomb and a Mexican saint, Lulu, who brings them all together in her small social service center, Casa Lulu. They, too, are clear in their outrage even as they dispense generous amounts of encouragement, of quiet hospitality and simple goodness.
The nearly 1,500 Haitians living in the tenement buildings just across from Casa Lulu have become the focus of much concern over the past weeks. The Haitians have found some solace in living together as a community; this unfortunately has made them an easy target for organized crime in the area, which in turn makes it difficult to find a way to support their families. Somehow many of them manage to make enough to pay the rent, but will have a tough time providing adequate food and even less luck buying medications.
This would be heartbreaking if there were only adults suffering, but the most vulnerable are the many children enduring this daily Calvary.
The Angry Tias and Abuelas would like to provide $2,000 per month to keep Casa Lulu’s cupboards full of bandages, remedies for stomach ailments, first aid wound supplies, and over the counter treatments for children and adults suffering from fever, and other ailments. We are also planning to offer each family a monthly bag of oil, beans, rice, powdered milk, salt, pasta and other basics food stuffs.
If you would like to help these children, you can send donations to the Angry Tias and Abuelas Donation page https://www.angrytiasandabuelas.com/donate. The funds go directly to food and medications; there are no administrative costs.
Any questions you might have can be directed to Jennifer Harbury of the Angry Tias. She should be texted at 512 751 5852. Please put “Mike Seifert” at the beginning of the message to help her prioritize her many calls.
Thank you for your compassion.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Rio Grande Valley community leader Michael Seifert (pictured above). The column first appeared in Seifert’s blog, Views From Alongside a Border. It appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Seifert can be reached by email via [email protected].
Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!
Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled.
Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!