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Testimony: Jennifer Marbury working on the U.S.-Mexico border

Jennifer Marbury  |  Issue: May | June 2019
migrants behind barbed wire

Image by Prazis Images on Shutterstock


Unbearable: Last week I felt like our government reached a point of no return in abusing refugee families. ICE dumped more than those 500 families per day at the Catholic respite center in McAllen, Texas. Normally it is fewer than 100. No one was turned away but it was impossible to make sure everyone was fed, much less given the usual hot showers, clean clothes and medical care.

The church people there worked 24/7 and deserve a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile we Tias were at the bus station to help the families on their way. It is hard to forgive ICE for what we saw there. Everyone had been held in the hielera or icebox where the AC is cranked way up and peoples’ coats and sweaters are removed.

They are left with the useless space blankets you have seen in the photographs. Most people ended up on the floor. No showers and no toothbrushes. No reasonable medical care either. A small child came down with chicken pox but no one took him and his mother to a clinic, so many became ill.

Others came down with the flu. Everyone developed a nasty cough and fever. Food was either inedible (Wonder Bread sandwiches) or inappropriate for a child. If they asked for help they were scolded and reviled.

They were not sick when they reached the USA, but after the hielera they arrived at the bus station, exhausted and sick, many without shoelaces or warm clothing for trips as far as Boston. Babies lay limp across their parent’s knees. When asked if they wished to delay their trips in order to rest up or get medical help, most said no.

Within a day or so they would be safe with relatives who could help them. They knew they needed to get out of the border area as fast as possible before something even worse happened (like family separation). And they were right. As we passed out tangerines, information, and fleece throws I grew so angry I could hardly see straight.

A one-year-old sobbing for food later gave me nightmares. But these people are also amazing. They have been battered, raped, kidnapped, robbed and terrorized in their homelands and by predatorily gangs all along the northbound route.

Yet they managed to bring their children to safety. Just two more days of hardship. A pregnant young woman was in tears, but she thanked me and lifted her chin. She would make it somehow,
Dios quiere.

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