Dedicated Volunteers Left To “Pick Up The Pieces” Of Human Carnage From GOP Racism & Biden Administration’s Lack Of Courage, Competence, Creativity, & Resolve! — Failed Political Leadership On Migration On Both Sides Of The Border & Uncritical Reporting From Most Media Are A Big Part Of The Problem! – immigrationcourtside.com
From Education to Everything Else
Felicia Rangel-Samporano and Victor Cavazos founded The Sidewalk School, then a migrant shelter in Mexico. Now they also provide tech-support for a flawed U.S. immigration app.
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Since opening, the school has also expanded to the neighboring Mexican border city of Reynosa. Because life in the migrant camps is transitory, The Sidewalk School’s teachers came and went, sometimes within weeks, said Rangel-Samponaro. They decided it would be easier to hire educators from Mexican border communities instead. Residents also understand better how to navigate the complicated dynamics at play in cities like Matamoros and Reynosa, which are riven by cartel-related crime—most recently, the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Matamoros, two of whom were shot and killed by cartel gunmen.
The Sidewalk School teaches based on the U.S. school calendar. In February they celebrated Black History Month, for example, she said. They focus on reading, writing, drawing, and play activities. Classes are typically held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They currently have 10 people on staff in Matamoros and Reynosa. “We need even more staff,” Rangel-Samponaro said. “In both cities.”
As elected leaders in both Mexico and the United States fail to acknowledge the seismic shift in global displacement due to climate change, Covid-19, and other factors, migrant camps continue to appear up and down the Mexican border.
Border residents have been frontline responders, adapting to the most pressing needs in the camps, one of which is housing. Recently, The Sidewalk School joined the church group Kaleo International to build a shelter in Reynosa. The shelter houses mostly Haitian and African migrants, who are some of the most vulnerable since they are routinely targeted for kidnapping and persecution in Mexico.
But one of the biggest surprises, said Rangel-Samponaro, is that they now serve as tech support for the CBP One app, which was rolled out in January by the U.S. government for migrants to apply for asylum, as an exemption to Title 42. The app has been plagued with errors. And humanitarian groups have complained that the app, which requires that each person upload a selfie to begin the asylum process, often won’t accept photos of darker-skinned applicants.
Currently, there are thousands of Haitians in both Reynosa and Matamoros, as well as other darker-skinned asylum seekers, who are stuck because they can’t get the app to accept their photos. (The manual on the app, which Sidewalk School employees consult daily is 73 -pages long).
I visited Reynosa and The Sidewalk School in late February and spoke with several Haitian families who had tried to use the CBP One app.
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I was quickly surrounded by frustrated parents who said they’d been trying for weeks to make the app work. Living in makeshift shelters made of tarps and cardboard and having little to no access to the internet, parents were waking up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to find a place with an internet connection, then registering, and trying to take and upload their photo before 8:00 a.m., when the app began accepting daily applications.
“I have an appointment,” one father told me. “But the app won’t accept the photos of my children, so I can’t get appointments for them.”
The app often timed out, crashed, or gave error messages, they said. “It’s a disaster,” one man said, after I asked him to sum up his experience trying to use the app.
“People don’t like hearing it, much less acknowledging what is happening to Black asylum seekers,” Rangel-Samponaro said. “They are stuck inside these encampments for months compared to people of Latin descent, who are at the camps for maybe two weeks or a month.”
I spoke with at least 10 different Haitian families, and they all told me that they’d been living in the migrant camp in Reynosa for at least five months.
“We don’t have enough food,” a Haitian boy told me in Spanish, who said he was 11 years old. “And I have this rash on my face.” He pointed to his cheek. Open sewers and trash littered the area around the camps. And the families, who said they couldn’t work and were struggling to buy food, said they were growing desperate.
Felicia Rangel-Samporano visiting a migrant camp in Reynosa with mostly Haitian and Venezuelan asylum seekers. (Photo: Melissa del Bosque)
So desperate that families were considering splitting up. Rangel-Samponaro said there had been anguished meetings with parents who were considering sending their children across as unaccompanied minors. If the parents could get appointments through the app, they would reclaim their children once they arrived in the United States. At least that’s what they hoped.
Recently, The Sidewalk School brought in an immigration attorney to explain to parents how difficult it can be to find a child once they have been designated as unaccompanied in the U.S. immigration system. Children are held by CBP, then transferred to a shelter run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement somewhere in the country. “We’ve explained to them that it’s unlikely that they will cross, and their child will be there waiting for them,” she said.
And once people are accepted by the app for an appointment, they are extensively vetted through a series of law enforcement databases, and some are turned back, she said. “Just because you’ve got an appointment doesn’t mean they’re going to let you in to the United States.”
Rangel-Samponaro, like many others who provide humanitarian services in Mexico, is in frequent contact with CBP about problems with the app. In early March, she said, the agency updated the app so that it only requires one member of the family to submit a photo. But there are still not enough appointments for every member of the family, she said, so families are still splitting up and sending their children across as unaccompanied minors.
The Border Chronicle requested a response from CBP about the app. Tammy Melvin, a CBP press officer, replied in an email that the agency “continues to make improvements to the app based on stakeholder feedback.”
She said that “appointments will only be shown if enough slots for each member in the profile is available.”
And Melvin added in the email that they’ve not seen any issues linked to ethnicity. “CBP One is not conducting facial recognition that compares photos submitted in the application against any other reference system to identify someone,” She wrote. “CBP is not seeing any issues with the capture of the liveness photos due to ethnicity.”
Rangel-Samponaro and others disagree. “We’ve invited the app developers to Reynosa and Matamoros to see the problems we’re having firsthand, but they’ve declined to visit,” she said.
Meanwhile, the hardships keep growing for asylum seekers. Recently, the Biden Administration announced, beginning in May after Title 42 is lifted, that asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first country they enter, rather than at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rangel-Samponaro said The Sidewalk School is doing everything it can to help, as even more people will likely be stuck in limbo after the policy change in May. They’re providing educational programs, running a shelter, and now providing tech support, and helping people navigate the U.S. government’s glitch-filled app. “I struggle to categorize everything that we do now,” she said.
Just one of the many error messages encountered while using the CBP One app that Rangel-Samponaro and others try to troubleshoot for asylum seekers. [The “error messages” are all too real! The CBP denial that there is a problem is surreal!]
The first two years were rough going, she said, and she and Cavazos spent their own money to keep The Sidewalk School afloat. Now they’re receiving some grants and donations. But it’s always a struggle, she said. “We need more volunteers, more funding,” she said. “Because the need never stops.”
For volunteer opportunities and to learn more about The Sidewalk School click here.
Read Melissa’s full article at the link.
How’s this for “contrast?” Felicia Rangel-Samporano and Victor Cavazos, private citizens, gave up comfortable lives in the U.S. and invested their own time and money in addressing the needs of children and families essentially “tashed” by lawless inhumane policies of both the Trump and Biden Administrations. Meanwhile, racist, cowardly, bullying Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is leading a clearly unconstitutional effort to deny children in Texas U.S. the public education to which they are entitled under Supreme Court precedent. Have to ask what’s wrong with a state that puts a horrible person like Abbott, who doesn’t even govern very well in emergencies or other areas, in charge? They also enabled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), another bullying, lawless, coward who is basically the “bottom of the barrel!”
I’m not just getting the above from this article. I have recently had a chance to hear from individuals actually providing legal and humanitarian services at the border who basically said that the situation there is “beyond FUBAR” and that the Administration officials “crafting” border policies are out of touch with reality and not up to their jobs! In some cases, they are just paying no attention to the law or the advice of those who actually understand the system, both in and out of Government.
That seems exactly what we voted out of office when the Trump kakistocracy was removed. Why, then, does Biden think that ignorance, bias, cruelty, and incompetence on human rights and racial justice is now a “winner?” Why is he aligning himself and his Administration with GOP nativist zealots like Abbott, Paxton, DeSantis, Trump, and Miller, rather than with folks like Rangel-Samporano and Cavazos who actually represent the humane, practical, problem-solving values that the Dems ran on in 2020?🤯
With human lives at stake every day, one would think that our Government’s massive violations of human rights and cavalier dismissal of legal rights recognized for more than four decades, would be of great interest to the so-called “mainstream media” and that all Democrats would be demanding changes in human rights/immigration leadership (obviously, Mayorkas & Garland are the wrong folks) and a competent, legal, humane approach from the Biden Administration. But, unfortunately, you would be wrong! Dead wrong, in some cases! ☠️⚰️
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