We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Their Story is Our Story, an organization that is giving a voice to asylum seekers and refugees by collecting and sharing their stories and images, revealing the individuals behind the labels.
TSOS helps refugees tell their stories in a way that is intimate and emotionally authentic. The first story from our partnership tells about the arrival of a young mother and her son at one of the border shelters where asylum seekers are dropped off after being released from detention centers.
A Single Backpack
Contributor: Kelsey Royer, TSOS
Photographer: Kristi Burton, TSOS
A single backpack contains all the belongings this Guatemalan mother possesses after her arrival at an Arizona church the day of her release from a border detention center. She and her son were among fifty asylum seekers from Central American countries processed by ICE, fitted with ankle monitors, and released to await their asylum claims in court.
The manner of their release was abrupt. After exiting the detention center, which some called the “icebox” because it was kept so cold, they were placed on a Homeland Security bus, driven for several hours to the church, and dropped off. They did not have money or phones and had not showered in weeks.
Unlike this young mother with her backpack, others arrived with their meager belongings inside plastic “homeland security” bags. When asked, many were unaware of where they were or how far it was to where they were going. They each had sponsors (usually extended family members) located in various cities around the country but they had not had the opportunity or means to communicate with them or form travel plans.
Remarkably, this woman and her companions were welcomed by church and community volunteers who greeted them with warm smiles as well as access to mobile shower facilities, food, and clothing. They also connected them with their sponsors by phone and made travel arrangements. Most of the asylum seekers were on their way to their ultimate destinations within 48 hours.
This Homeland Security bus drop-off scenario is repeated multiple times every week in locations near the U.S. southern border. Though their detention center experience is often horrific and inhumane for asylum seekers, countless church congregations, NGOs, and community volunteers rise to administer to their needs and assist in their continuing journeys.
Aid supplies donated to LHI are shipped to partner shelters like the one in the story above, where generous nonprofit organizations and churches provide additional services including warm meals, showers, and a place to stay for a short time.
Will you help by donating aid supplies for delivery to these shelters?