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Residents of Texas’ poorest communities collect aid for arriving asylum seekers
By Sergio Trevino, April 23, 2019

Residents of Texas’ poorest communities collect aid for arriving asylum seekers

Each week, LUPE member Emma Alaniz collects and donates clothing and supplies to a local refuge for asylum seekers.

She is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of South Texas residents who have donated time, supplies or money toward the Central American families passing through our area before heading north to reunite with family and other sponsors.

“If I hadn’t had training with LUPE, maybe I wouldn’t be so involved… with these immigrant children.”

What makes Emma’s weekly donation drives different is that she lives in one of Texas’ poorest communities, unincorporated neighborhoods called colonias.

Neighbors, friends, and zumba classmates are some of the colonia residents that Emma has turned to for donations. They part ways with unneeded children’s clothes, shoelaces, canned food, or other practical items. Their families no longer need the items; new immigrant families desperately need them.

Not everyone in these struggling neighborhoods can or wants to donate. But Emma is persistent, which she says helps convince people.

“After repeating why I’m doing this and what it’s about, I get more interest [from neighbors]. If I speak to six people, two people pay attention, and one donates supplies.”

Emma is one of hundreds of low-income residents of the South Texas border that LUPE has helped to organize to build power, create opportunities, and win a better quality of life. As an informal organizer of her colonia, she’s worked together with her neighbors to win paved streets and drainage protections from flooding. Now they are working to bring in streetlights.

She sees her work with immigrant children as an extension of her community organizing with LUPE.

“I’ve lost my fear of speaking out, of approaching people I don’t know. If I hadn’t had my training [with LUPE], maybe I wouldn’t be so involved in my community and with these immigrant children.”

Emma has long advocated for long-term immigration relief, but it was seeing children in need during family separations that drove her to get involved with welcoming Central American asylum seekers.

“We are living through so much discrimination and racist hate,” she says, “but what really motivates me to continue [in the struggle] are the injustices and lack of respect toward the human rights of the children.”

She recognizes that her work for immigrant children also helps defend her own community against the president’s push for a more militarized border.

“It’s disgraceful that this president, like every coward, props himself up on the backs of the weakest, the most vulnerable. Right now that’s Central American families and migrant children. It’s a coward’s game to get what he wants. It’s not right and we can’t let it happen.”

After weeks of collecting donations in her neighborhood, she’s thinking of more ways to help that have a bigger impact. Plus, there's only so much her neighbors can donate.

She brought her ideas to LUPE for collaboration: a zumbathon to collect supplies and donations, a book drive to give out Spanish-language children’s books at the shelter, a Día del Niño event to provide the children with a little bit of fun during their stay.

To make Emma’s ideas into reality, we need donations and volunteers. Donate to LUPE today. Or sign up to volunteer here.

LUPE defends family unity through legal aid, community organizing, and community partnerships.

Our membership base and community partnerships mean that we can recruit and coordinate volunteers, drive supplies and donations, and turnout the community to mobilizations like protests and vigils, all the while helping our partners tell a systemic story about border communities responding to asylum seekers and humanitarian need. But we need donations so we can pay our staff to do this critical work.

Make a donation today so we can mobilize more donations and volunteers and direct them where they’re needed most.


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