Unbreakable

Brendon Tucker (“Tucker”) lives in a studio that he shares with “grandpa,” a 75 y.o. formerly-homeless immigrant. Grandpa sleeps in the only bed in their tiny apartment. Tucker sleeps on the floor.

Everyday they prepare and transport meals across the border. Together, they feed people living in encampments on the Mexico side of a bridge that represents an “official port of entry.” The wait is long and cold.

He’s agreed to let us and a journalist named Bella tag along and help today. We do an initial run across the border to get the lay of the land. It costs us a dollar to cross and we arrive in minutes.

The size of the encampments fluctuate with the political rhetoric. These people are trying to follow the rules to legally claim asylum in the United States.

I catch eyes with a serious-looking Cuban in a BETO t-shirt. He doesn’t speak English, but smiles at me, says “Cruz,” and makes a thumbs down sign.

We meet a woman traveling from Guatemala with her 18 m.o. daughter. She arrived yesterday and has been crying ever since.

Her baby reminds me of ours. With permission, I give her chocolate. Soon we’re playing chase and giggling. I toss her into the air and she squeals in delight. Her mother breaks a smile. I’ve made new friends.

Later, she explains she’s ashamed she can’t provide for her daughter, who needs shoes and a change of clothes. We make plans to return later with everything she needs.

Back in the U.S., we buy warm shoes, socks, clothes, and coats. Tucker’s memorized his most popular recipes and knows how to stretch a dollar. He’s clearly in his happy place.

Preparing cupcakes we’ll distribute later, we learn about the troops deployed to the border. So far, the extent of their mission has involved installing razor wire for intimidation.

Most see it as an expensive, pointless undertaking— and a missed opportunity to create local jobs.

GRANDPA: “Los conserjes pordían haber hecho eso” (Janitors could have done that.)

If you want an informed perspective about what’s happening down here, ask someone who lives it everyday like Tucker.

We cross back over, looking like a caravan of our own. We haul wagons, coolers and medicine requested earlier.

I look for my new friends but they’re gone. I inquire with the nearby guard.

GUARD: “Se fue.” (She left.)

I’m crestfallen. Tucker says it’s complicated. There are many reasons she could have left. But he reassures me that most people who get this far usually make it all the way.

It’s really cold, but mealtime on the bridge overflows with laughter, love, and happiness.

I’m deeply moved by the people I’ve met this week. They’re kind, generous, resilient people, who’ve fled unimaginable conditions and faced great hardships in search of a better life.

It’s clearer than ever that the immigration policies recently put in place are misguided— designed to break the spirit of a people whose spirits are unbreakable.