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Blog Post

Tijuana Part 1

Working in a Refugee Clinic on Border

Rare are moments when we witness something profound but have time and safety to write about it. I am astonished to find myself in such a moment.

I am working with Refugee Health Alliance just over the Mexican-US border in Tijuana. The group provides medical care to the myriad of people detained at the border. Read more about this group at their website and see how to be involved at.

More important, pressure fellow US country folk that we will not tolerate the present immigration policies. The injustices being administered here. Whatever form your pressure takes – letters, rallies, calls, riding a unicycle in front of the White House. Personally, I think it will take every available person to physically storm the border and remain until a change occurs. Make a human wall.

The following several installment account reflects a separation between observations and considerations/ new knowledge. That rare chance I have. Using a crotchet for clarity.

Every Saturday for the past nearly 40 weeks, the RHA group takes three bulging rolling suitcases to three migrant shelters in the morning and another three settings in the afternoon. To “uncared for” people. Bags stuffed with donated and purchased medicines, blood pressure cuffs, wound care supplies and other stuff. A rolling pharmacy. In Belize, we took Toyota Land Rovers to mobile clinics. Here teams of 4-8 volunteers walk or take Ubers Some shelters are locked and guarded for refugees protection, others are more free flowing. Some are food kitchens for homeless deportees. The second Saturday I was here, we went to Little Haiti, high in the hills outside the city.

Every Saturday for the past nearly 40 weeks, the RHA group takes three bulging rolling suitcases to three migrant shelters in the morning and another three settings in the afternoon.

At each place, we see 10-40 patients of varying ages and illnesses. The first shelter had an outbreak of chicken pox. Children who were as miserable as varicella can make one – most painted pink with Calamine lotion. That shelter consisted of tents lined up inside a building. Each dome tent providing a degree of privacy for family members – sometimes four or six per Coleman or Kelly. No North Face here nor anything resembling glamping. I am used to doing home visits but while here I started with “tent visits”. When women needed abdominal exams and the only available space for lying supine would be their tent. Other sleeping/reclining family members strewn about with all their possessions. Some stay in these quarters for months. One mother said her court date was in November. I see people walking with tents slung over a shoulder in the main tourist areas but I no longer assume they are going camping.

Regular volunteers told me one day they came to a shelter and a man was lying on the floor with his head split open. No one was around him. A doctor sewed him up. One girl I saw had been raped on her journey and tried to end her life two weeks later. She was only 16 and her mother quit her valuable job to provide twenty four hour surveillance that she didn’t try again.

“Remain in Mexico” also known as Migrant Protection Protocols or among aid workers Migrant Persecution Protocols. MPP means migrants seeking asylum at US ports of entry are turned back to Mexican border cities. There they must await court dates scheduled months and miles away in San Diego or other cities. Stranded in Mexico, they have no access to US lawyers who will or could represent them, no way to meet before the court date. Then no guarantee of translation services. Languishing. Waiting. Running on empty pockets, spirits and health. A wise older Cameroon refugee told me that desperate people resort to measures they would not contemplate if not for the circumstances. He was referring to illegal activities. But the next day I was heartened to hear of a small protest at the border by Cameroonians demanding just and fair treatment.


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