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IUCC group visits Tijuana border and Las Memorias

A group of seven, including Randy Romine, Ken Matsuyama, Colleen McNamara, Lavinia Cooper and Apoorva Ghosh from IUCC  and Rev. Nancy Bacon UCC Tehachapi and Rev. Bill  Freeman UCC Chatsworth.

On Friday Nov. 8 they spent a day at the border guided by a longtime Mexican missionary Rev. Chuck Shawver.

Here’s Randy Romine’s description of their trip:

  • We started the day at the El Chaperal border crossing bridge where migrants wait daily for their number to be called to either get on a list to wait for an entry interview or to be taken to a holding site for their initial entry interviews. The people with pack packs or luggage are expecting to get to go to the US side for interviews, but must return daily until their names are called .
  • We next visited a migrant shelter, Espacio Migrante,. It is a shelter for  approx. 100 family refugees waiting their interviews for US asylum. We met with 3 of the residents, 2 from Honduras and one from El Salvador. 2 were victims of gang death threats in their country and one had left to escape a death threat from her husband. We were asked not to take photos at this site. Our next stop was a visit to “Atencion Intergral” administered my Methodist pastor (above) Guillermo Navarette. This site provides a warm meal, clothing, and personal care items for migrants living in the nearby streets. Their program includes spiritual counseling and referrals to medical, legal aid and residential facilities serving migrants waiting in Tijuana.
  • Our third stop was “Al Otro Lado” a legal services facility helping migrants processing their asylum applications. The center is staffed by many US / Mexican attorneys and law school Spanish  speaking volunteers mostly from the San Diego area. They cross the border daily and aid. in preparing  all the paperwork needed for immigration hearings in the US and in preparing the refugees for their hostile interrogation entry interviews. It has become common knowledge that the current policy directives are to make the entry process as hostile and discouraging as possible and the legal center prepares refugees on what to expect. The site  also maintains  a  website which preserves the refugees legal paperwork, which has recently been found to disappear frequently  in processing. The lead staff of this site has been targeted  for additional interrogation when entering Mexico by the US and Mexican government and they are involved in many class action lawsuits against current US asylum practices that do not follow current US law.
  • Our fourth stop, Jardin de Las Mariposas, was a large residence  in a upper class area of Tijuana. It specializes in service to the trans community of asylum seekers in Tijuana, who are in high risk living in the border area as they are frequently targeted by gangs and sex trafficking. The facility location is generally kept quiet, but is well know in the trans community.  They provide meals, lodging, drug rehab counseling and legal/ medical/job referrals  to their residents.
  • Our Las Memorias day visit on Saturday included a day of hands on interaction with the residents. We offered  coffee, juice , fresh fruits and sweets for all in the facility . The residents could choose to participate in facial, massage and nail care services, to select from donated clothing and personal care items and to join in Bingo with prizes. Colleen and Rev. Nancy visited  everyone in isolation or too sick to leave their rooms for hands on personal care and visitation. It was a fun day for all and we are told by the directors that our visits are a favorite for our Las  Memorias friends. The facility was extremely appreciative for the $900 donation we were able to bring with us from central and southern conference Global Ministries and IUCC contributors.
Photos courtesy of Randy Romime and Ken Matsuyama

Further trips are planned as part of the Mission and Service Ministry and IUCC’s commitment to being a Global Mission church.

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