The community of Taos rallied together after the recent immigration crackdown on the U.S.-Mexico border and donated supplies to the children and families stuck in facilities along the border.
After collecting a moving-sized truck full of goods, local immigrant activist José Gonzales transported the community donations Friday (June 29) to the border. A GoFundMe campaign by Taos Immigrant Allies to raise the money for their gas, lodging and more supplies raised nearly double its $2,500 goal in eight days.
Gonzales had been collecting goods for a week to take to the shelters in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico which are holding thousands of children and families seeking a new life in the United States. The recent Trump administration's "zero tolerance" approach on immigration has caused a stir throughout the nation, prompting movers and shakers like Gonzales to spring into action.
"I believe we all deserve the opportunity to reach for the American dream," Gonzales said. "I think that incarceration is not the solution."
Gonzales began collecting goods at Enos Garcia Elementary a week prior to leaving for the border and advertised his cause at the Taos Democratic Party Headquarters. Thursday (June 28) the day before departure, donations began at 3:30 p.m. and within the first few minutes, more than 10 people brought in various supplies such as puzzles, games, diapers and basic toiletries. After packing the donations, the supplies collected at Enos Garcia filled up nearly half of a moving van and more were collected at various other drop off sites. The crew began loading the supplies around noon Friday alongside help from volunteers and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
"The need is really great," said donor Pat Sargent. "Not to do something would be strange. I think people want to do something. I think when the administration is dehumanizing people and making it so ugly, remember these (immigrants) are people."
Several of those who donated time or goods simply wanted to help in any way possible.
"I love it," said crew volunteer Joe Balsamo. "It's a long hot trip, but we're doing a real good thing and compassion is what we need down there."
Gonzales and his crew of volunteer drivers, took the supplies to the border. Gonzales was able to arrange for the goods to be dropped off and even took some time to donate backpacks of supplies to needy families he ran into along the bridge between the two countries.
"I saw huge smiles on their faces," Gonzales said after he dispersed the supplies. "Seeing the kids smile and seeing the individuals there so happy to receive something, (knowing) there's someone out there who cares for them."
Supplies were taken to shelters in both El Paso and Juarez where Gonzales said there was dire need for the goods on both sides of the border. Many of the immigrants housed at the holding facilities have very little to travel with and many have come hundreds of miles to apply for asylum to enter the United States.
Recently, the U.S. changed the rules of asylum to exclude personal crimes against a refugee. According to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the refugee must provide evidence that the person's government is "unwilling or unable to protect" them, in order to enter the U.S. Gonzales said that while only a small amount are seeking asylum due to this category, many are just looking to work and better their family's lives.
On April 6, Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy concerning immigrants entering the U.S. which calls for prosecutors to criminally charge those entering without documents. This led to the separation of children from their families and the construction of temporary holding facilities for the children. Several communities across the U.S., including Taos, rallied together Saturday (June 30) in protest of the separations.
President Donald Trump reversed the separation policy and ordered children held with their families at facilities, but more than 2,000 children had already been taken from their parents by then. A federal court has ordered that children under age 5 be reunited with their families by July 10 and the rest no later than July 26.
While unable to give an exact solution to the problem, Gonzales said a new immigration policy is needed to fix the issues at hand. In many cases, the legal path to citizenship can take a decade or more and costs thousands of dollars. Those stuck in the legal process were grateful to receive the goods from Taos, Gonzales said.
"I'm very happy to see our community react in such a positive way," Gonzales said of the donations.
Another run for donations is being planned for August, according to Gonzales.