Over the past decade, we have collaborated with partners across Central America, including indigenous voting rights advocates in Guatemala, environmental justice activists in Nicaragua, and HIV-positive peer educators in Honduras. Our work in these places gives us insight into the conditions that thousands of migrant families are desperate to flee. Our connection with these communities compels us to lift up the groups that are supporting migrants seeking refuge in the United States.
In spring of 2019, our production team gathered stories along the US-Mexico border, from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California. Watch our videos to hear from activists who assist migrants, advocate for justice, and preserve vital borderlands ecosystems.
Team Brownsville is a volunteer collective in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas assisting migrants reaching the United States. The US policy of “metering” the entry of asylum seekers forced thousands of migrants to camp out on the Brownsville border bridge, waiting in a lawless limbo to plead their case. Team Brownsville member Mike Benavides helps organize daily deliveries of breakfast, dinner, medical assistance, and needed supplies to support the bodies and spirits of those trapped in this appalling bureaucratic trap.
Working with Good Neighbor Settlement House, volunteers like Andrea Rudnik help migrants who have just been released from detention facilities. Asylum seekers are met at the bus station and assisted with their travel route to reunite with family and loved ones. They are also offered backpacks full of supplies, as well as a chance to visit Good Neighbor Settlement House to rest, shower, eat and get a donated set of clothes to begin the next stage of their journey to safety in the United States.
Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley formed in response to the family separation crisis of 2018, and they continue supporting migrants with deliveries of material assistance, travel help at the McAllen bus terminal, and other services as needed. We accompanied one of the Tias, Elisa Filippone, as she made her near-daily trip from Brownsville, Texas into Mexico to deliver supplies to migrants waiting to request asylum in the United States. Their ability to match donations with need, focus on women and families, and scrupulous use of funds made this grassroots group stand out.
The National Butterfly Center will be cut in half if a proposed section of border wall is built through its property. Executive Director Marianna Treviño-Wright explains how the wall would be an ecological disaster for not only the center, but the entire Rio Grande ecosystem — from habitat destruction to flooding risks. Marianna also opposes the wall as unlawful seizure of private land, an immoral symbol of bigotry, and an ineffective boondoggle with no national security purpose, but we focused here on her unique perspective on the environmental consequences of walling off American access to the Rio Grande.
Border Kindness meets the pressing needs of refugees and migrants in Mexicali, Mexico: providing food and supplies to shelters, arranging medical care, and connecting migrants with resources like legal representation. Executive Director Kelly Overton realized the need for humanitarian relief in the area during the family separation crisis of 2018; when a migrant caravan arrived in the area that fall, he loaded up his Jeep and drove down to help. With the support of local volunteers, he continues to expand the services the group offers, including assisting Mexicali families with special needs.
Border Angels has advocated for migrants since 1986. Based in San Diego, but with chapters and volunteers worldwide, they are best known for water drops in the borderland wilderness where migrants die every year. In addition to providing humanitarian aid, they also run a migrant shelter in Tijuana, organize marches, and provide services for the undocumented community. We were moved by founder Enrique Morones’ stories, and inspired by the dedication of the volunteers who risk border patrol harassment to save migrants’ lives.