At Every Mother Counts and across the world, the continued news of migrant families entering the United States and being subjected to mistreatment and unhygienic conditions has shaken our collective conscience.
Migrant families risk their lives to enter the U.S. along the Texas-Mexico border with the hopes of building a better life before being apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and taken to a nearby processing center. As the volume of asylum seekers grows, so do stories of dangerously crowded, inhumane and unsanitary conditions at CBP processing centers.
Families are forced to endure overcrowding and inhumane conditions at these processing centers. Migrant mothers are denied access to necessities such as diapers, formula, soap and medications. The majority of detained individuals and families have not been able to change clothes or shower since they left their home countries, having endured days and weeks of hot, dusty conditions through their travels. Babies, toddlers, and children are forced to wear the same soiled, mildewed clothes they were wearing when they had crossed the border with their families.
Many of the women who arrive are pregnant, some with high-risk pregnancies, some having had no prenatal care at all. Many have endured extreme violence and abuse in their countries of origin as well as along their journey to the U.S. An unknown number have contracted illnesses like the flu virus, upper respiratory infections, tuberculosis, congenital syphilis, and other treatable conditions that have gone unaddressed at CBP processing centers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a significant amount of disease could be prevented through safe access to water and better hygiene practices such as showers.
Earlier this year the San Antonio city government opened the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) to respond to the growing number of asylum seeking migrants flowing into San Antonio from the border. Approximately 200-250 migrants—about 60% of whom are women and children—arrive at the MRC every day. Since the facility’s opening in March, more than 10,000 asylum seekers have received assistance while they await the next leg of their journey en route to their final destination. Organizations and dedicated volunteers do their best to provide food, clothing, medicine and supplies.
But many who arrive request one simple thing that the MRC does not have the facilities to provide: a shower.
Today, we issued a new emergency fund grant to Sueños Sin Fronteras de Tejas (SSFTX), “a Latinx, women-led collective working to support the health, wellness, and hygiene needs of asylum-seeking families” based in San Antonio, Texas. Our grant will support SSTX’s three-month pilot project to provide immediate shower access to migrant families in partnership with the City of San Antonio Department of Human Services and MRC, Circle of Health International (COHI), Interfaith Welcome Coalition, San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio Mennonite Church, and RAICES.
Sueños Sin Fronteras will provide shower access for families at the MRC through a local nearby church. Pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone suffering from illness will be prioritized to receive shower services.
Volunteers will accompany people from the facility to the church and will provide towels, soap/shampoo, toothbrushes/toothpaste, hairbrushes/combs, and other items. The project will also employ medical volunteers to intersect and address any reproductive health concerns or needs of migrant women. Kits that include frequently asked-for products such as hair ties, essential oils, feminine products such as menstrual pads, over-the-counter yeast infection cream, UTI test strips, pregnancy tests, and a small card with resources and helpful facts in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and various Indigenous languages, will be made available to women in a safe and private setting. Over the course of three months, the project will provide showers to a minimum of 30 adults and children daily.
Although we don’t yet know what the long-term consequences of the dangerously overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at CBP processing centers on the physical and mental well-being of migrant families, simply standing by is not an option. Our hope is that by helping reconnect migrant families, and women in particular, to basic human services, we can restore in some small way their sense of dignity and self-worth.
Want to help? Support the efforts of Sueños Sin Fronteras by purchasing much needed supplies and personal care products from the organization’s Amazon Wish List.