It’s Not a Solution, but There Is a Positive Side to the Immigration Issue
This group of Texas volunteers has opened their hearts to families and individuals trying to enter the United States legally.
As families seeking asylum await their turn on the hot cement plaza to either 1/cross the bridge to apply for asylum or 2/ receive word of their application status, a group of volunteers provides them with water, a simple breakfast, dinner, and personal supplies.
#TeamBrownsville offers these tokens of comfort with compassion and a smile. It is an example of acts of kindness from strangers to strangers. In the truest sense of giving, their only goal is to relieve suffering.
And with all the negativity surrounding the immigration issue, it’s heartening to see that this crisis has the potential to bring out our best. And it’s something we all need to take note of.
Out of the darkness and negativity comes light, and it only takes one beam of light to disperse this darkness.
Team Brownsville, Inc. was founded in July 2018. It is now a 501(c)3 non-profit which displays its Certificate of Formation, Application for Incorporation, IRS Letter of Designation of its status, and a Conflict of Interest Policy.
It’s all legal. And it’s evolved to the point that media sources throughout the world have covered its mission. Its beginnings were not only humble but unintentional.
“We were just a small group of friends trying to do the right thing and help people that had no home, no country, no belongings, nothing.” ~ Sergio Cordova
According to a post written by Sergio Cordova, it all started by accident when he, Michael Benavides, and a group of friends crossed the Gateway International Bridge. This bridge is one of three international bridges that cross the U.S.-Mexico border between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in Mexico. Their mission was to provide food and supplies to asylum seekers waiting to cross the bridge.
Team Brownsville provides four programs and delivers assistance at two locations: La Plaza at the Brownsville Bus Station and the Gateway International Bridge Plaza mentioned above.
#1 and 2: Breakfast and Dinner at the Bridge
Asylum seekers come from South and Central America to Brownsville to apply for asylum in the United States. They notify the U.S. and are then sent back across the Gateway Bridge to wait in the concrete plaza in Matamoros.
They await their turns to cross over and apply and then return to await word.
This is where they receive breakfast and dinner.
Breakfast is simple, and no volunteers are needed. The Team handles this on their own.
Dinner is another story. Volunteers prepare, deliver, and serve meals to approximately 1,000 people five nights a week with church groups providing food for two of those days. According to their website, the quantities of food vary “dramatically” day-to-day.
The Team and groups of volunteers provide dinner in two ways. One, by planning, buying and preparing it, or by donating money for Team Brownsville to hire a restaurant. The cost is $1200.
If you want to prepare food but don’t have a kitchen, one will be provided for you. Volunteers place the prepared food into foam hotboxes, transport them to the bus station, and load them into wagons to cross into Mexico to Matamoros.
Volunteers also provide fruit snacks, cookies, or wrapped snacks. No whole fresh fruit is permitted, but it can be cut up. The Mexican government does not allow packaged foods, and it must be ready to serve.
#3: Escuelita de la Banqueta
The Sidewalk School provides children with basic instruction in English, math, geography, social studies, music, and other subjects. Four to five teachers teach 10–15 mini-lessons each.
They travel across the Gateway Bridge on Sundays from 9:00–10:00 AM. Following their lessons, children line up to receive goody bags and books.
#4: Assistance at the Bus Station
Assistance is provided in the form of supplies such as diapers, wipes, sanitary napkins, shoelaces, belts, coloring books and crayons, and small soft toys and dolls.
Volunteers help asylum seekers place calls to families for money for bus or plane tickets. They help them understand their itineraries and provide maps to give them directions. Families often wait up to six hours for a bus.
Those who spend the night at the bridge are fed dinner.
In general, volunteers at the bridge provide a calming presence to immigrants, many who have been traumatized during their journey.
Dignity Village is a project with the Mexican government, Team Brownsville, and other non-profits to upgrade living conditions from tents to hard-walled structures. Until December 2019, thousands of asylum seekers lived in slum-like conditions in Mexican border towns.
This is a temporary camp within eyesight of the bridge, and it’s where the immigrants feel safest. Many are fleeing violence from gangs where murder rates are high, and the criminal justice system barely functions.
IKEA “Better Shelter” provides the housing. It has provided sturdy temporary structures throughout the world since 2014. The Dignity Village Team will begin with 300 housing units capable of housing up to 1500 people. It will provide a sense of community as well as basic needs such as sanitation, food, and water.
Non-profits contributors include:
-Resource Center Matamoros
-Lawyers for Good Government
-Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV
-Global Response Management
Volunteering is not without its risks.
The same violence from which the immigrants seek asylum is present for volunteers. They are instructed not to leave the plaza or go anywhere without a Team member.
Still, the program thrives.
When all we see is bad news, we begin to believe that the world is a terrible place. But not all news is bad. This organization is an example of people genuinely giving of themselves to make a difference, even if it’s only one small corner of the world.
And this program is just one example.
I challenge you to do two things. One, do some research and find another program like this. Then write about it. It could be your next post.
Two, stop scrolling your Facebook feed and read something that will lift your spirits and restore your faith in your fellow human beings. It’s as easy as clicking here.