Reporting

Weekly Witness: Tent Courts and Sick Babies

Lee Goodman, Jan 13
“Tent Courts” in Brownsville, Texas. Image: Lee Goodman.

Marisol Cortez

In this Weekly Witness series, we share some of the most significant messages posted to the public Facebook group Witness: Tornillo. Target: MPP by volunteers who have staked themselves outside the tent cities and detention facilities of the Trump Administration’s child internment policies. These posts offer firsthand, on-the-ground witness accounts of conditions experienced by asylum seekers in Matamoros, México, on account of the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” aka Remain in Mexico.

Under MPP, asylum-seekers are forced to wait on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico international border during their immigration review hearings, rather than being released into communities within the U.S. In Matamoros, Tamaulipas—currently under State Department travel advisory due to cartel violence—migrants have crowded into a tent city of 2,500 just beyond the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge, across the river from Trump’s “tent courts.”

As these witnesses document in detail below, this policy of deliberate concentration and secrecy has effectively gutted the asylum process, setting up in its place a rigged, expedited hearing system that effectively denies migrants legal representation and rubber-stamps denial of asylum. Since January 2019, over 57,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico, with only 11 granted asylum.

For an introduction to this series, see “Witnesses Begin Documenting ‘Remain in Mexico.'”

For more on MPP, read The New York Times’In Court Without a Lawyer: The Consequences of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Plan.

Some posts have been edited for clarity and length.

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Lee Goodman, Jan 11
Tent City in Matamoros, Mexico. Image: Lee Goodman

Lee Goodman, Janurary 11

What’s different from the last time I was in Matamoros, Mexico, where asylum seekers wait at the border with the U.S.? The tiny tents where whole families live are pretty much the same. Many of the same people are still here. But there are a lot more portable toilets. And people no longer have to shower in makeshift stalls formed by blankets hung from trees, with water coming from hoses, or bathe in the filthy river. A new concrete shower room has just been built. Good news? Not entirely. It means that this encampment is becoming permanent. Our government and the Mexican government seem to be preparing to have people wait here indefinitely – maybe for years – maybe forever, as we make it harder and harder for people to get into the U.S. legally.


Arun Gupta, Jan 12

It is simply heartbreaking to see the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico where more than 2,200 people live, including 500 children. Everywhere you see little kids playing with balls and toy cars, digging in the dirt, running around. Toddlers wearing just shorts waved at us. Little kids in pajamas ran up to us to hug us.

Women cook over mud stoves using firewood and laundry hangs in lines strung between trees on the banks of the Rio Grande not far from where Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter drowned while trying to swim across and reach safety in the U.S.

We talked to asylum-seekers from Mexico to Central America to Cuba. The overwhelming majority are mothers and children. Many are fleeing from cartel violence.

One woman says drug traffickers executed the father of her children in front of her children at their school. Others say they were threatened with extortion by gangs, to pay a ransom or die. If you don’t pay, you and your family will be killed.

One woman fled political violence in Nicaragua. Two men from Cuba said Mexican police kidnapped them, stole their I.D.s, and extorted $4,000 from relatives. In nearly all cases, the United States destroyed their country through wars, coups, economic predation, and drugs. Mexico is wracked with violence because of our appetite for drugs and devastating economic policies.

The thousands of people is a new development. Last summer it was only a couple of hundred in the camp and people would rotate out as they got asylum hearings in the U.S. This is the result of Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that is completely criminal in every way.

There is also a growing movement to bear witness and raise noise to Trump’s policy. If thousands of people went to Brownsville and other border cities, it could be a new Standing Rock. Mass people power could create a political crisis that could potentially stop this criminal policy.

Everyone in Brownsville believes Trump’s policies can be stopped. People just need to start going down to see for themselves, to witness, to give aid, to hear stories, and go back home to spread those stories.


Joshua Rubin, January 13

The day the vigil began, and perhaps in the days before, word spread around the encampment of refugees in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As we opened our banners, as we marched outside the phony courts of injustice, as we announced our intentions to end the cruelest policy yet, the one that makes a prison of the northern banks of the Rio Grande, there was an outbreak of hope.

The day before we started, we heard whispers of it in the camp. A woman, her asylum denied, her son sent over the bridge on his own to try his luck in the detention system, told us that she had postponed her trip back to the south, back into the mouth of the shark, because she had heard there was a protest about to happen, Americans coming to the border to say, no more, to end the blockade against them and their families.

And indeed, we were there. And word came to them. Maybe some, those that have found places to live, even saw it on TV. There was much reporting in the Spanish language media. And groups of men and women and children clustered in groups in such a way that the guardians of our country and wealth and privilege, on the bridge, took notice, and, the story goes, closed traffic to the north, albeit briefly.

It wasn’t long before it reopened. Hope is always waiting to break out, but it is a delicate thing, and when it vanishes, leaves only a memory.

It will take us a little while longer, my brothers and sisters. The vigil continues.


Debra Amore Selland, January 13

This little Guatemalan girl—her mother is in detention in the US and her father has his third hearing tomorrow. If he loses, and he likely will, what will happen to her?

Every person you meet has a story of unimaginable suffering. Children in CPS custody in the US, deported separated parents trying to get back to find their children.

Didi Barbara 8, Jan 14
With young Guatamalan child in Matamoros, Mexico. Image: Diane Sonde

Lee Goodman, January 13

Behind razor wire are the tent courts. I spent the morning observing asylum seekers, none of whom had attorneys, being cajoled by the judge into agreeing that they understood what was going on (highly doubtful considering the complexity of immigration law and procedures) and admitting that they were subject to being removed from our country.

They can still try to get asylum, but in the meantime they have to wait in Mexico. A very unconvincing attempt was made by our government to make it appear that these vulnerable people were being given due process. The “judge” is not independent. He is employed by the same department that says the people appearing before him should be deported. The prosecutor hardly said a word. He didn’t have to. The judge was doing his job for him.


Glenda S. McKinney, January 13

At training for observing the tent courts, I learned some things that are making me angry-cry:

  • Judges are video-conferencing into the courts. Judges are questioning asylum seekers directly, even when federal attorneys are present and would ordinarily be doing that. An observer suggested that this procedure is used because the judge is only seeing the asylum seekers on a TV screen, so they are less likely to see the asylum seekers as human.
  • Judges can set arbitrary rules to prevent visitors from being able to enter: no pencils, must have closed-toe shoes, etc. and these rules are enforced by the personnel who assign and escort observers to court rooms.
  • No cell phones are allowed into the court rooms, but an attorney and interpreter were allowed to put theirs into a locker.
  • Some courts allowed note taking, others did not.
  • Visitors cannot approach or speak to asylum seekers, attorneys, interpreters.
  • One observer who had been a public defender said that the judge he was observing would ask, “Do you understand that…?” repeatedly until asylum seekers gave up trying to get clarification or information about what they did not understand. This was to make appeals difficult.
  • Asylum seekers are all given a list of pro bono attorneys, but the list seems to be outdated. This is to make appeals difficult.
  • Asylum seekers are asked if they understand English or if they need a Spanish interpreter. No other languages are offered, even though Guatemalans are likely to be the plurality of asylum seekers and few of them speak Spanish as a first language. Once that they agree that they understand English or Spanish, however, the lack of meaningful interpretation cannot be used for an appeal.
  • An attorney cannot represent an asylum seeker for one appearance. Being attorney of record means that they have to represent the asylum seeker for the rest of the process. This is being done to discourage attorneys from helping at initial appearances.
  • Judges are being assessed by their superiors based on efficiency and rejection rates. The judges who turn away the most asylum seekers are rewarded with advancement.
  • Only about 5% of non-refoulement cases are approved. Asylum seekers who tell border guards about previous kidnapping and rape and other reasons to fear being returned to Mexico are not being told about the non-refoulement possibility. [Non-refoulement refers to the principal under international human rights law of not returning asylum-seekers to countries where they would be in danger of persecution.] Also, having been previously kidnapped or raped is not necessarily evidence that you would be kidnapped or raped again, so you’d have to prove that.

Diane Sonde, January 14

Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in Matamoros today. Thousands of people waiting, hoping to tell their story to an immigration judge. They expect the judge in the court will understand their plight. They expect the judge will understand why they can’t go back to the dangerous situation in the country they left. They expect the judge will allow them to pass into the United States. But no, that is not what happens. Nearly all are forced to remain in Mexico.

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Charlene Frank, January 14

CROSSING THE BRIDGE

As I walked over the bridge from Brownsville, Texas to Matamoros, Mexico, for the first time, I began to feel a little nervous. Not scared, just nervous. How would I take this in? I had heard such horror stories about the conditions in which the asylum seekers are living. How would I react?

The first thing we noticed were clothes hanging to dry on trees. We knew we had arrived. We walked up a small embankment and there was tent after tent. Karen, the woman who was a guide for Nanette and me, was explaining what everything was.

We passed a hair cutting station: three chairs set up with three girls cutting hair for three boys. They are making a community, even here. Even in this place. There were children running around playing, and men cutting branches in half with machetes so they would fit onto their fire where their meals were cooked. Of course we knew that most of their meals were served by generous volunteers. They had no money to buy food.

There were so many tents, some in better shape than others. I had to keep reminding myself that these are not kids on a weekend camping trip in these tents.

These are families who live here day after day, week after week, month after month. Waiting. Waiting for my government to give them a chance to get away from the horror in their country and now from the terror of nighttime in this “Remain in Mexico” camp. The terror of the cartels and the gangs. The terror of the all-too-real possibility of rape and kidnapping, and murder.

As I walked around, I realized that it was too much for me to take in. There was nothing against which I could measure it. It wasn’t something that made you scream with fear. It wasn’t people living in unjust poverty. It was something my brain couldn’t grasp. I tried, but it was too big.

Then came the children. First a little girl ran to Nanette and hugged her legs tightly. Then a child ran to me and did the same. Then child after child joined them, hugging us and looking up at us with giant smiles. Beautiful children. We fussed over them and then walked on wondering why that happened, and feeling guilty that we were able to simply walk away while they had to stay. It was too big to register and I knew it.

A few minutes later, as we were talking, a middle aged woman came out of her tent with a folding chair. We could see it was her only chair, and she offered it to us so one of us could sit. Damn. These are kind and gracious people in these tents. We can walk away, but they have to stay. We explained in our best Spanish that we were there to ‘see’ and to keep telling the people of the world that they are here, and to let the government of the United States know that we are watching. She hugged me tightly saying “Gracias, gracias, gracias.” I promised, “No se olvidaremos ustedes.” We will not forget you.

We walked on and saw one of their makeshift toilets. It was a triangle of three round branches about one foot off the ground with blankets or plastic hung around it for privacy. These are not campers, this is not a fun but uncomfortable weekend. This is real life. We will go back to our Air B&B with 3 lovely bathrooms and they need to use a triangle made from branches. Ingenious, but it sucks.

We asked someone if they knew our friend from the Matamoros Resource Center. He smiled and walked us there. Kindness after kindness from people living in such hellish conditions that it can’t even register in my mind.


Esparza Silvia, January 14

Took these courageous witnesses over the bridge to witness the atrocities of this administration. Their facial expressions say it all. Made sure they all made it back safely. A woman broke down and cried on my shoulder today. All I could say is that this won’t last forever. I also held a beautiful infant baby girl in my arms with her mom’s permission for a little while. The baby girl told us, “hola.” We decided to leave after a couple of hours and a group of children told us “adios” and hugged us as we were leaving.

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Sally Northcraft Nador, January 14

Sunday we walked through the camp, some 2,500 strong at this point, of asylum-seekers in Matamoros and saw the spot along the Rio Grande where a father and daughter died some months ago. The river and river bank looked just like the photograph that circulated so widely. The river is surprisingly narrow at this point, so I couldn’t help wondering why these two drowned except to think that the father was perhaps a weak swimmer, unable to keep a two-year-old in tow. It is so incredibly sad to think that someone was so desperate that he risked death and, in fact, died.

Yesterday Lee Goodman and I went to observe a tent court hearing, a sham proceeding that meets the letter of the law but that’s about it. The judge knew we were there, so I think it’s an important form of witnessing that we attend hearings.


Sarah Towle, January 14

I now know what is meant by “kangaroo court.” I attended one today—under a tent of converted shipping containers on the US border in Brownsville, Texas. That’s where asylum seekers present their cases. But tent-court hearings are unique in many ways:

“Judges” appear on screen via videoconference.

“Judges” are not independent but employed by the same government that considers asylum seekers guilty and worthy of deportation before their hearings begin.

Only 4% of claimants have legal representation.

Public and press are barred by armed security guards employed to keep any surveillance on the other side of chain-link/razor-wire topped barriers that shield proceedings from scrutiny.

It’s dystopian, lacking due process, and not simply unjust, but illegal, according to the ACLU-TX.

The US government states that processing claims like this aids asylum seekers, concluding them more quickly. Critics contend it facilitates more efficient deportations. But the process can take six months or more with an average of five court visits per case and a 1.1% success rate. In 2019, for every 10K claims, only 11 were granted.

Meanwhile, future US citizens live in danger in tent-city squalor.

Tent courts have been shrouded in secrecy since they were set up in Sept 2019. I attached myself to an attorney as a “translator” to get in. She was one of just two attorneys present among the 50 asylum seekers in our courtroom. She had less than 30 minutes with her client, who expressed in sobs that in Matamoros she and her baby sons faced regular threats from the Gulf Cartel.

Her lawyer requested a non-refoulement interview. If granted, the three will be allowed to wait out their asylum case in the US. The judge granted the NFI, but then had us escorted from both courtroom and complex. No time was provided for lawyer and client to prep for this important “fear of Mexico” interview.

From what I saw, the tent court system hops—like a kangaroo—right over legal due process by depriving even represented claimants meaningful access to lawyers or interaction with judges. The whole setup is essentially a rubber stamp for deportation.


Marina Welch, January 14

This afternoon Dave and I went by ourselves to the tent camp. It gave us the opportunity to interact with some of the asylum seekers one-on-one. The children were especially eager to chat once they discovered Dave spoke Spanish. We started with a brother and sister but the group grew to about 8 kids. They told us their names, what country they were from (even the 3 year old knew), and how old they were. They practiced counting in Spanish and the oldest knew how to count to 10 in English. It was hard to leave.


Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, January 15

Good morning, everyone. The time is now 4:50am and Ray Rod, my roommate/friend/colleague, is now waiting in line on the Bridge to cross into tent court on the U.S. side. This is suppose to be his “final hearing.” This will be Ray’s 3rd time attending his “final hearing,” and the hope is today he will finally receive a verdict. I won’t say the name of his judge, but if she doesn’t give a verdict today…I don’t know what I’ll do!!!

Last Monday, when Ray attended his 1st “Final Hearing” and the judge decided not to give a verdict, I will admit….I broke. I cried for days for Ray. I didn’t attend my own school for two days because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. Ray has been stuck in México going on NINE MONTHS!!! Nine f#%^* months of getting the run-around by the U.S. government, of him getting his hopes up only for the U.S government to tell him he’s missing a receipt or a paper that needs to be certified from his home country or that they lost a page so they can’t move forward until his lawyer resends it to them. I can’t anymore.

I have been in Matamoros, México since Nov. 2018, helping the asylum seekers. I have changed my whole life to stay out there and help in any way I can, because no one, and I mean NO ONE, would help the asylum seekers. The little organizations like mine are ALL grassroots. When Ray needed clothes and shoes when he first arrived—because he only had the clothes he was wearing and the shoes he wore to walk thru the jungle and climb mountains, and those were barely holding together—I went to Walmart and bought everything. As the U.S. sits back and waits for over 2,000 people to give up and go back to their dangerous home countries, they leave people like me to help, and Victor Cavazos, Cindy Candia, Elizabeth Cavazos, Gaby Zavala, and I would love to say many more like us—but the truth is, there aren’t many of us. Only a few of us have stuck it out with the asylum seekers, giving up our personal lives, our money, our marriages, and so much more, because of our government. We have lived and died with some of the asylum seekers, and yet everyday we must press on because there is no one else but us.

I moved to Matamoros, México because the asylum seekers became my life. I had developed so many friendships and close relationships like Ray. Ray just feels like the sum of everything to me. So this morning, I will wipe the tears from my face, get dressed, drop my son off at school, and go to tent court to watch Ray’s “final hearing” again. Then I will go home (because the court doesn’t release asylum seekers until hours later in the day) and get ready for the Sidewalk School at 4:30pm. We have some visitors today at the School and I welcome anyone to join us. Ray was the first teacher at The Sidewalk School and I am so grateful he pushed me into creating it. I’ll keep everyone posted about his verdict.


Karla Rader Barber, January 15

HELP NEEDED – CALL NOW.

This morning, attorneys for Project Corazón attempted to bring six Central American families with babies born in Mexico to the Brownsville port of entry. According to the rules of the “Remain in Mexico” program, Mexican citizens (these babies) do not belong in the program. We also understand that the U.S. government is no longer separating parents from their children.

The supervisor this morning screened two families, put them through a medical check we did not request, and returned them to Matamoros. We were initially told to return with the other families at 2:00 when we learned the first group had been returned.

Remain in Mexico is NOT applicable to Mexican citizens. All six families have relatives to go to in the U.S. Separation of families is immoral and cruel. Please call the Port Director, Tater Ortiz, at 956-983-5704, your congressional representatives (especially if they are members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus) and the media. We are waiting on the bridge now.


Debra Amore Selland, January 15

Mothers with sick babies are attempting to cross now.

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Joshua Rubin, January 16

And it is now Day 5.

Yesterday began with court observations and ended with Witness participation in an action to rescue some Mexico-born babies from the hellscape of MPP, the policy that turns people out into the neglect of the southern bank of the Rio Grande. We all hammered the port director with phone calls, and lent some of our whiteness to stand on the bridge with babies and mothers, the bridge over the border, the racist, cruel frontera.

It is early, we will set up at the little park right at the foot of that bridge and unfurl our banners. We will be ready for any call for help. Many of us cross that bridge now several times a day. Each day is different.

As some of us waited in Matamoros yesterday, as evening fell, a large group of men came walking along the path toward us and past us. Mexicans, we soon found out. New deportees. More than 100.

So many kinds of tragedy, pouring through such a narrow conduit.

More later, it is early, and witnessing must begin.


Alessandra Mondolfi, January 16

I have only been here 5 days but it feels like a lifetime. I have seen more than I can handle and heard stories that have brought me to my knees. I have no idea which, how or when to relate them. I have only been posting about the protest we have been doing on the US side because those are easy. This will be my first attempt to tell the story on the Mexico side and I am sure that neither photos nor words will not it justice but, I will try.

For the last two days, Thomas Cartwright and I have been supporting Project Corazon. We have accompanied 10 mothers with infants across the bridge to request they exit the MPP program and enter the US to seek asylum as opposed to being forced to remain in Mexico.

Nine of the babies are three months old and were born in Mexico. One of them had pneumonia. The mothers are from Guatemala and Honduras. The 10th child is six years old and has serious health issues for which medical arrangements have been secured and funded by individuals. Only two were allowed through. These women traveled alone for months pregnant, gave birth, and have been living in the camps with the newborns. Two of them have been turned away four times and tomorrow will be the 5th attempt. Their strength and resilience is astounding and not until tonight had I seen them shed a tear.

I beg you all to call your representatives and demand that they end this policy and #LetThemCross.


Joshua Rubin, January 17

Each day piles on top of the day before. We witness a family emerging from time in the hielera, the icebox, coming out into the light, after perhaps months of the darkness of escaping. For them, escaping from Michoacán and the drug wars.

Others wait on the bridge, from Guerrero and Oaxaca. They are afraid of the camp. They ask for asylum. No room, they are told. The older children try my binoculars, while the babies are at their mothers’ breasts. The men tell us of the violence they are trying to escape.

At the middle of the bridge are the gatekeepers. They stand on the line between Mexico and the US, and prescreen, asking for papers. I have heard it now, and it is hard not to feel as though I am watching a Christmas pageant. Please take me in. Give me asylum.

No room, is the reply. Meanwhile, below the bridge, some Guatemalan men have a cottage industry of traveling to the uncleared portion to the west and chopping wood with their machetes, selling the wood to feed the fires of the encampment, along the southern banks of the Rio.

Joshua Rubin, Jan 17
Bringing in wood for the encampment. Image: Joshua Rubin

Carbon Trace Productions, January 17

Hispanic Congressional Caucus. Image: Still from Carbon Trace Productions video

Here is the press conference that just took place at Xeriscape park in Brownsville, Texas. Representatives from the Hispanic Congressional Caucus visited the camp in Matamoros, Mexico. They also viewed the tent courts.


Ann Schaetzel, January 17

All of us who care about the soul of our country should come to the border. You can read about it, protest about it, but actually being here takes you a few steps deeper into hell. It is a shocking place. You see masses of tents. Many many tiny children. Many young pregnant women. You think you see, but then you realize there is so much you don’t see, and can’t. You witness but it’s really what you can’t see.

You walk through this encampment and on one level it’s become kind of a well-ordered community: people greet you, smile at you, you see children playing, you see laundry hanging on trees and bushes, on lines, families cooking on clay stoves they’ve built themselves. In a sense a community of families. On the other hand: no resources, packed together in tents, 12 sandals lined up outside the tent flap, imagine pouring rain, cold; no plumbing, only scores of portapotties in rows, no water except what you can draw from the tanks of purified river water, no electricity except a communal charging station. Dusty wind when it’s dry, mud when it’s wet. No doors or locks to protect you from an intruder.

But what’s really shocking: Try to imagine walking through your own neighborhood and realizing that inside every house there’s someone with a story which is almost unimaginably horrific.

Images haunt me. Little children delightedly chasing sparkly birthday confetti thru the air. Then you see the woman standing alone by the remains of a cake. It’s her 39th birthday, she’s wearing a crown they made for her. Her husband has been killed.

A story, too: A father from Honduras talked to us another day, again at dusk: he’s the son of a Mennonite pastor who has devoted his life to saving young people from gang life. After years of his father’s work, gang rivalry and violence in the town suddenly escalated. One night, in retaliation for this pastor’s work, his brother and sister (this man’s aunt and uncle) were killed in their beds in front of their 5 children. Cellphone pictures show bodies at the crime scene, his uncle’s leg chopped off, and later in caskets at funeral. As soon as the funeral was over, this young family left home and everything they owned. They traveled two months by bus from Honduras, stopping every few days to work to pay for the next leg of their trip. They have been in the camp for months. The father doesn’t sleep at night for fear of violence against his children during the night. Asked what he expected would happen if he returned to Honduras, he simply said, “I would be killed.”

He had a message for us and for our president: “We are not criminals. We don’t want to take anything. We want to live in peace, to work, and get an education for our children. We are human beings like you.”


Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, January 17

It’s going to be a long post, so sit back and relax. The School has had many visitors this week, and I hope this continues, because so far no one has heard of The Sidewalk School that ONLY HIRES ASYLUM SEEKERS AS TEACHERS. Everyone has only heard of Team Brownsville’s School. But there are TWO schools in the encampment. The Sidewalk School is run by the asylum seekers and is held three days a week at 4:30pm. We would love to go five days a week, but we do not have the funding.

The Teachers get PAID EVERY FRIDAY and the children asylum seekers (students) know our teachers well, because at some point most of the teachers have lived in tents on the Plaza along with the students. It was very important to myself and Assistant Director Victor Cavazos to empower the asylum seekers and not have them so dependent on others to live. The teachers are also board members of The Sidewalk School. They live in Matamoros, México 24/7 so they know their needs more than myself and Victor Cavazos. We are the only two Americans involved in the school.

Team Brownsville does have a wonderful school run by Melba. Her school meets one day a week on Sunday mornings for one hour. I want to make very clear that Victor Cavazos and I support ALL services given to the asylum seekers. Victor Cavazos was one of the original co-founders of Team Brownsville. He still volunteers as much as he can with them, BUT THE TWO SCHOOLS ARE NOT CONNECTED.

Few people know of the Sidewalk School that is run by the asylum seekers. I have funded the school from my own pocket since its inception (people do donate money but it’s not a lot since few know about us), and now that it is no longer possible to pay the teachers and buy fresh fruit three times a week for our students, I am looking for a full-time job to keep our little school going, and I am happy to do so. I will continue to keep the Sidewalk School afloat because I know lives depend on the income, and the students depend on the education and fresh fruit given to them every week, which is the only fruit they are receiving. So if you have the time, please go back to the beginning of The Sidewalk School’s pictures and watch how we grew from four to six teachers, and hopefully after I find a full-time job we will soon have eight Teachers. We need them!

We have the same 60 students week after week, day after day—and we only have 60 students because we had to cap the school. Unfortunately, we do NOT have enough teachers for all of the children asylum seekers. So, yes, unfortunately we do have to turn children away every class. One teacher can handle only so many children.

If you’re here this week, please join us on Friday. Ray Rod was the first teacher at The Sidewalk School. He will be teaching Friday at 4:30 along with our other teacher asylum seeker Rodney Joseph Prepo. Both Ray and Rodney had Tent Court yesterday morning, and since they are both teaching tomorrow you know how it turned out for them. Unfortunately. So at The Sidewalk School we have learned how to keep going…really, because there is no other option for the teachers and students. Two teachers at the school have already been denied asylum. They were denied on a Tuesday and showed up for work on Wednesday. I will be making another post later today telling more about each teacher and how long they have been in Matamoros, México.

Thank you for your time. And if you don’t donate to the Sidewalk School, then please donate to any of the organizations out there. I have been here since November 2018, and my life has completely changed. ALL of the organizations need help with funding. No one has helped us up until a month ago. We have all paid out of pocket because we had no other choice. Thank you, and keep hope alive, because if you don’t this will eat away at you and you won’t be able to continue helping the asylum seekers.


Alessandra Mondolfi, January 18

Today there was a small victory in the fight against the horrific MPP policy, and it took a village.

After “20 hours .. 2 lawyers.. 5 members of Congress .. numerous volunteers and witnesses.. doctors, nurses, and EMTs,” we got 4 families across the Matamoros/Brownsville bridge into the U.S. They were two mothers from Honduras with three-month-old babies, a family from Guatemala with another three-month-old baby and an infant and mother from El Salvador with a Down Syndrome child who also has a heart condition.

Thanks to the Democratic Hispanic Caucus members who came down to visit and I am specifically grateful to Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congresswoman Marcy Kapur, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro for heeding our call.

While I am celebrating today, I have to state that this is a drop in the bucket. There are thousands of people who are being forced to remain in Mexico under inhumane conditions and our aim is to end MPP and restore asylum.

Mothers and babies freed from MPP. Image: Alessandra Mondolfi.

Click HERE to Support Witness: MPP.

Click HERE to support the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers.

Click HERE to support Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company which produced Witness At Tornillo, and which continues to document the actions of Witness: MPP.

Click HERE to read more about an upcoming call for witnesses over Valentine’s Day weekend.

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