by Photo by Manuel Ocaño

The asylum process activated for a few weeks in 2021 during the year President Joe Biden took office, which was a time that a team in Chula Vista and San Diego used to help about 1,000 migrants cross the border.

The Biden administration refused to activate the asylum process, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won a lawsuit that allowed the most vulnerable migrants waiting at the border to gradually pass through.

“What we did was that we organized ourselves as a group and went where the other organizations did not dare, to the El Chaparral camp in Tijuana, in search of those vulnerable cases,” attorney Dulce García told Chula Vista Today.

There were attacks on journalists, visitors, and abuses of single migrants at the camp. Several aid organizations preferred to stay away.

Garcia of Chula Vista, immigration and labor attorney Ian Seruelo of San Diego deported veterans' leader Robert Vivar, Gina Garibo of the American Friends Service Committee, and members of Psychologists Without Borders formed the Chaparral Humanitarian Alliance Coalition.

Despite the risks, the group arrived every day to document in improvised offices with documents and chairs to take the testimonies of very vulnerable people until nightfall. 

They helped cross cancer patients, those with illnesses that needed urgent medical attention, women with high-risk pregnancies, and other pregnant women in their last days before giving birth who, without crossing the border, would have had to remain on the streets.

The group also helped mothers with their children who had experienced severe circumstances of abuse, children who fled alone from the war between cartels and did not stop until they reached the border, where some of them were still being followed.

Lupita, a Mexican teenager, for example, had never left her town in Mexico, but the day her father was killed she was able to flee, but they were still looking for her more than a thousand miles away. The team hid her while she filled out her forms, accompanied her to the San Ysidro port of entry, and was able to accompany her until she was safely on United States soil.

“She told me that she wanted to study and become a lawyer to help her people,” said Dulce García.

The Biden administration closed the asylum process again and it has not reopened. However, lawyers from Chula Vista and San Diego, the psychologists, and the activists who supported them managed to get at least a thousand migrants who were vulnerable across the Mexican border to continue their asylum processes in safety.

Nobody in the humanitarian team received payment for their work, and none of them sought it out.

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