By Claudia Meléndez Salinas
Refugees from Central American who trekked on foot from their war-torn countries to Tijuana stopped being top news a few weeks ago. But they have not disappeared: most of them have found refuge at a giant shelter some 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, and they’re now waiting their turn to apply for asylum in the United States.
At the rate the U.S. is accepting their applications – fewer than 100 a day, according to The Guardian – they’re in for a very long wait. In the Monterey Bay area, the migrants have not been forgotten.
A coalition of Central Coast organizations are seeking donations of food, clothing, camping gear, and everything a family would need to be delivered to the border on Dec. 15. The organizations — Direct Action Monterey Network, Revolunas, and Watsonville Brown Berets — are asking for items from baby formula to cooking utensils to take to the more than 5,000 people now staying at El Barretal shelter, most of them sleeping outdoors.
The group is also organizing a benefit show to take place Dec. 14 at Old Capitol Books in Monterey.
Stephanie Spoto, owner of Old Capitol Books and a member of Direct Action Monterey Network, helps organize many local activities that support immigrants, including the launching of the Rapid Response Network.
“We network with other groups to support local projects,” she said. “We have a philosophy reading group of radical theory to think critically about society and fundamental ideas of how we should live in relationship to the government and the state.”
The group has about six core members but lots of volunteers for big events, Spoto said. She also teaches literature and ethics in the humanities department at Cal State Monterey Bay and runs her bookstore.
“A lot of the stuff I do is really my family and friends who are doing it with me, so sometimes it feels less like work and something you do with your family and friends,” she said.
While the caravan appeared to receive a lot of support and sympathy, they’ve also been scorned and maligned as they traveled through Mexico. Spoto says the disparagement is unfortunate.
“I wish when people are at their lowest and the most vulnerable and suffering that most people would try to be more compassionate to other humans,” she said. “There are lots of instances where that happens to those who are embedded in our own community as well. This is very visible and large scale example of mass suffering. Seeing people ridicule them is heartbreaking especially this time of year.”
Donations for Honduran migrants will be received until Dec. 14 at:
Old Capitol Books, 559 Tyler St., Monterey (every day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Community Action Board, 406 Main St. Suite 205, Watsonville (Mon-Friday 2-5 p.m.)
Otter Cross Cultural Center, Student Center, Cal State Monterey Bay, (Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Alisal Family Resource Center, 1441 Del Monte Ave., Salinas (Mon-Thurs., 8 a.m.-8 p.m, Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Femme and Folx Benefit for Tijuana Refugees will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at Old Capitol Books. Suggested donation: $10.
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