San Diego Group Creates Modern Humanitarian Speed Rail for Asylum Seekers

by on November 1, 2019 · 1 comment

in San Diego

Speed Rail to Love

By Terrie Best / October 31, 2019

After watching my friends at the Minority Humanitarian Foundation create a modern humanitarian speed rail – nightly trips getting asylum seekers off the side of the road where ICE dumps them and on to airplanes where their sponsor families collect them – I have been profoundly moved by their ability to fill in the many gaps to care along the way.

Using social media, several resourceful people have created a moving system of care that is changing everything.

The gaps to care are addressing a devastating humanitarian crisis and the folks struggling to fill them are laying down tracks from thin air. For example, the Foundation (MHF) raised six thousand dollars in five hours on Facebook to pay for an acid burn victim’s eye surgery. The surgery released tissue around the socket and allowed this victim of a terrorist act to close his eye for the first time in months.

This mercy is just the beginning for the gentleman and he is only one of dozens of victims of torture who are seeking asylum and whom MHF has encountered and found care for along their individual journeys home. My conscience is consumed with wanting to help in the same way you want to help the winning team with the fucked up jerseys and black eyes go up against the well-armed and ill-mannered gunmen tearing your shit down.

What is being torn down is our country’s moral fiber and what is being restored for many is a fast track to love and safety. That’s the work of the MHF speed rail and its enemy is ICE.  Jack-booted thugs as obstacles to love and safety? Yeah, I’ve wanted to help for a long time. Like Bernie Sanders said, I will fight for people I do not know.

Yesterday, I got a text from MHF asking if two Cameroonian ladies beginning their journey home could hang out at my place for a few hours as a pit stop until their room was ready and flights could be booked for the following morning. It is a small ask. A mini hosting. “Sure!” I responded.

MHF has a grant that gives them the ability to Lyft folks to wherever the care is. They also use Miles 4 Migrants to unite families across the nation. It is a speed rail to home and to love, with care stops along the way. And today I was just one stop – cobbled together on-the-fly through an architecture built by my heroes – on the journey of Lady 1 and Lady 2.

After a quick briefing, a text link was sent so I could watch the progress of the Lyft carrying my guests. I met the ladies at the curb.  Here’s what I knew so far.

Both women had just been released from Otay Detention Facility the night before with an unshackling and a gruff “welcome to America.” This is a consistently reported, middle-of-the night procedure. Along with an ankle monitor and some papers, this is legal asylum-seeking in America. This is “doing it the right way.”

The unshackled but stranded women spoke English, which increased their chances of being able to borrow a phone by quite a bit that night. They did this but nobody came when they called. Now out of custody, for the crime of “seeking-asylum-the-right-way,” somebody should be coming to give them a little more asylum than prison offered, right? I never discovered what organization failed them that night but they ended up in the back of a truck, sleeping alongside a kind stranger just to get off the street until daylight.

The next morning, through a network of people who had previously been helped by MHF, a phone number was produced, a savior awakened and help arrived. What happened next is a care gap I’m not sure about but somehow they were fed, a Facebook post seeking a mini host was created and a text hit my phone.

From knowing the amazing people at MHF, I am guessing that the ladies were taken into the home of MHF founder, Mark and his wife Judi. Judi cooked breakfast and the dilemma of where to place them while they awaited a 2 pm hotel check-in and eventual flights was solved.

To make matters more perplexing on the asylum seeking front, one of the women was expected back at Otay Detention for “court” at 1 pm.

When the ladies arrived to me in the Lyft, I had to coax them a little bit to get out of the car.  I’m not sure they knew they were on the love speed rail home. They did not know what I did; did not know that MHF had erased ICE’s shame dozens and dozens of times for folks just like them; that soon they would be in my home – stop one, for a shower and help with a Lyft back to court for Lady 1 and a shower and nap for Lady 2.  They did not know that in exactly 24 hours they would be on airplanes to their loved ones.

As the ladies stepped onto my street, I took a minute adjusting my thinking to consider I was encountering possible terror in another human being.  As that was happening the smaller one nearly collapsed. We sat on the steps for a minute and she explained her dizziness while I tried to take her plastic webbed potato sack from her to ease her load. I became aware that even this could be terrifying. I made a mental note to explain my moves better.

The speed rail home was speedy, with all the aggression that is required to deliver, but this potato sack, issued by ICE, was all she owned in the world.

When we got indoors, after water was offered, and because of the time constraint for court – the awkwardness of strangers and all the rest – I kind of hustled Lady 1 into the shower and encouraged Lady 2 to lay down.  More terrifying requests came from me as I struggled to conceive how vulnerable they were. I later noticed they hadn’t even used the towels I provided. I’m guessing disrobing in such a frightened state was too much for them but I’ll never know.

Meanwhile the other branch of the speed rail to love was being mapped. MHF called my phone needing snapshots of some paperwork to book flights for the two women.

More terrifying moves were required as I rifled through their paperwork. I explained it was in order to book flights for them. It was by any standards inexcusable to take over somebody’s legal file and start flipping through it but this was the speed rail to love so I had to risk it.

After MHF had what they needed, Lady 1 was in the bathroom and Lady 2 arose from the couch, we got a chance to talk a little.

But I wasn’t sure if it would help to chit chat, questions seemed all wrong too.  I tried to put myself in her place. I had been to jail, but never for simply seeking asylum and nothing like Otay Detention. I had been homeless but never homeless without a country and I had lost all my belongings before but I always had my family.

I knew nothing of real fear. I left Lady 2 alone for awhile and explained I was here to talk too, and ask what she would prefer. I had it wrong. Lady 2 wanted to talk and she was nothing short of adorable. She said no, she wasn’t afraid while she had a couch to lay on, she could hear the birds and feel the breeze.

I struggled to adjust my thinking again.

These women were living in the moment and as deeply concerned for their situation as I was, this moment was not terrible to them. There was water and food and a promise of on-going shelter. They were off the streets and at least six people had smiled at them already and it was only noon.

As horrified as I was at what they had endured, I shared in this moment of their journey. It was a fast trip on the MHF rail and it would continue to gain momentum as the staff did what they do.

Later, pictures were sent of Ladies 1 and 2  snuggled in their individual beds at the hotel with plates of food in front of them and the last leg of their journey laid out for them. Their flights were discussed, they were fitted out with brand new suitcases to replace the plastic sacks and they were sent to their loved ones across the country.

They said it was like a dream.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Seth Stanton November 1, 2019 at 7:51 pm

Wooohoooo. Miles4Migrants loves being part of the humanitarian speed rail. Anyone who wants to give their frequent flyer miles or credit card points to the cause please go to miles4migrants.org/donate

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