U.S. border agents know exactly what they’re doing when they tell asylum seekers at U.S. ports of entry that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “doesn’t have the capacity to process them” that day, the next, or even a week—it’s a stalling tactic meant to discourage them from asking for asylum, a right enshrined under U.S. law. But with Glady Cañas Aguilar around, they have a fighting chance.
Since June, the Helping People Succeed leader, along with her daughters and group of others, “comes to two of the main bridges that connect Matamoros and Brownsville, Texas, with everything stranded migrants need to survive,” Mother Jones reports. “Umbrellas to block the sun, medicine, tacos, water, and ice. She stays late into the night, tidying up the makeshift encampments and providing the moral support that migrants often lack on their journeys north.”
The donations oftentimes come from her Facebook followers. Sometimes they come right from her. But what she always brings with her is hope. During one instance when she was rushing to bring a Guatemalan mom some baby food for her child, she ran into Luis Miguel Montimo, a Honduras asylum seeker who was fleeing violence with his two-year-old child. Montimo told Mother Jones that a border agent told him “that his son would be an adult by the time they were allowed in.” But Cañas Aguilar told the dad that “you have a right to ask for asylum. So be patient. Have faith in God. God will give you strength.”
Ruben Garcia, who runs Annunciation House in Texas, has also been a physical manifestation of grace for vulnerable migrants, helping not just to guide families across the international bridge, but to push back on these myriad excuses agents use to turn families away. “I know that last week you all released 360 persons to us,” he told an agent in one such instance described by the Texas Tribune. “There have been weeks where you have released at least 1,000 people to us, so that’s how I know capacity isn’t an issue.”
Like Garcia, Cañas Aguilar doesn’t give up easily, because she knows what’s at stake. She sees the faces of these vulnerable families who have trekked miles for sanctuary in the U.S. She remembers their humanity. “By listening and chatting, they feel as if they’re in their homes,” she said. “Even though we had never seen each other before, even though we’re from different cultures, they feel that care and love from everyone.” When Cañas Aguilar returned to the bridge, she again ran into Montimo, who continued to wait. “I won’t leave you alone,” she told him. “Don’t be afraid.”