When I travel to one of the bridges to meet migrants who are waiting to pass through to seek asylum, I am taken aback by some of the sobering stories that I hear from people who have traveled so far. It is through hearing theses stories that I find am able to grasp the severity of this crisis which is hindering the lives of many.
Those seeking asylum are stopped at the bridge due to policy changes and an administration that is cutting back on the number of asylee applicants that are being processed a day. Those that are held temporarily at the border seek shelter under a tarp that volunteers have set up and are forced to wait for sometimes days before getting called up by Customs Border Patrol.
When I went to distribute food across the Gateway bridge with Team Brownsville, I was in awe after hearing some of the stories from some who had the courage to share their long and difficult journey which has lead them to where they are. While serving dinner, I met a young 17-year old who we’ll call John, who spoke French, so we began to converse while he grabbed a plate. He told me he had been on the road for 3 months, after fleeing his native country of Guinea. As he rested his arm on the railing slightly picking on one of his first meals of the day, I cautiously started to ask him how long he’d been on the road.
That’s when he began to tear up and quickly wiped the tears as he looked in distress. He told me he’d been having trouble sleeping due to the traumatic events which he had suffered back at home. As many volunteers who travel across the border will concur, post traumatic stress disorder is fairly common for many migrants who have fled been in the road. John began telling me about his past, about how his father had been part of an opposition party that opposed the government. His story quickly took a turn when he told me he heard a gunshot in the middle of the night and walked in the next day to find his father’s throat slit with his eyes gouged out. Without even thinking, his family quickly fled what they once called home and parted ways.
John was fortunate enough to make his way to Libya with some friends and relatives who had arranged his travels to South America. The journey to the U.S. was a treacherous one; he was mugged on the way and lost majority of the money he was traveling with. He had to go through the jungles of Central America and lost his friends along the way. Fortunately, there were many who assisted John as he marched on, providing him with cash so that he could pay for his bus fares.
The asylum seeking process has become far more complex under this administration, and has little concern for transparency. Many have no idea when their number will get called up so that they can begin their application. As his hand continued to shake over the railing as he looked on at the cars that were passing by, I could only observe senselessly at his emotions that he was going through. As he was revisiting some of the most tumultuous events in his mind, I tried my best to comfort him and let him know how close he is to seeking refuge in the U.S. One can only hope that someday he’ll be able to resume his studies and try to reestablish some sense of normalcy that has alluded him.