Wowie - I don't know where to start. Maybe with where I am now: sitting in a park in Los Fresnos (population about 5K); there is outdoor wifi, a skateboard park, horseshoe pits, and a playground. (There are a shit-ton of bugs, too. Let's not forget it is hot, humid, and rained inches a few days ago.) It's really nice - even with the bugs. I hear English, which is pretty uncommon. My experience so far is that everyone here is either bilingual or speaks Spanish only. It won't be true of everyone, of course, but I hear very little English.
I visited the border today. I became the driver for El Pastor for the day, and traveled with him on his errands and then he took me to Brownsville. We visited the bus station where INS drops people off who have been paroled from detention. People who have a physical address to go to (family, friends, church) are often paroled. If you have no physical address, you stay in detention or are deported.
We visited the wall. Matamoros, the city right across the border is visible from the US side. The Rio Grande was high with lots of debris floating by, probably from the storms earlier in the week. The bus station is a couple hundred yards from the border. There is a bridge across the river that people and vehicles cross - lots of traffic every day. And it is across this bridge that some people come every day who are seeking a new life. Our law requires us to accept people who come to our country who are seeking asylum. When Trump shut down other pathways into this country, this one stayed open. So, virtually everyone asks for asylum. When people ask for asylum, they are immediately put into detention. There are detention centers in Brownsville; there is an unaccompanied minor detention center outside of Los Fresnos. Families are housed in a detention center in McAllen. You cannot access the detention centers unless access is granted. El Pastor is called occasionally to go pick people up, but he said it was unlikely they would let anyone in to observe.
El Pastor said that most people coming across the border come across a 60-mile stretch of the nearly 2K mile border. The 60 miles is where I am. He said there are hundreds of people camped out on the Mexican side of the border just waiting for a chance to cross the bridge. That the cartels manage who gets to the front of the line.
El Pastor is 81 and escaped Cuba as a young man. He spent time in a prison camp and barely escaped with his life. He laughs alot, calls everyone "mi amor," prays fervently, and decided when he escaped Cuba to devote his life to helping people find safety. Someone else who works with him told me today he is known as the "Mother Teresa of Disciples" in the Disciples of Christ congregation.
I will share more about exactly what Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries does - and I am learning. The change in our government has changed much for them. SWGSM used to house refugees who were in the asylum-seeking process, but now those people are detained. If they get a parole card, they don't stay close by because a) there are not good jobs here (though they can't work legally); and b) the judge for this region is hard-nosed. If people have anywhere else to go, they do that. That said, El Pastor houses people who are likely to be killed or tortured if they are deported and who have nowhere else to go. I have met a few, including one 31-year old woman from Honduras who is pregnant and has a toddler who will be 2 in August. She has 3 children in Honduras. I don't know her story yet. All I know is she has no one in this country.
I hate and love Wal-mart. Again. Because they suck so badly, and have everything you need. Today, I bought size 5 diapers, baby wipes, 2 pairs of size 5 plastic sandals. And I bet I will be back for many more trips. It is a fucking odd world that we are in with these stores crammed to the rims with crap, and people in such dire need.
I can walk to four places that give pay-day loans. The nearest Starbucks is 9 miles away.
I went to the coast today, too. Cotton! These people grow cotton down here - who knew? And oranges. There are palm trees and cacti (I didn't know those two things co-existed). There are massive wind farms here! These elegant, giant-sized ballerinas slowly spin. I find them enchanting.
El Pastor provided me a pick-up truck to get around. So, I am cruising around South Texas in a pick up truck, listening to Mexican music. The sky is huge, the enchiladas are ricisima.
Tomorrow, I go to McAllen.
Peace y abrazos