Our last stop of the day was a local shelter. We saw immigrants by the bus load arrive after being released from custody. The shelter staff explained to them that we were not government officials, that they were in a safe place, that food and water, medical services, new clothing, and showers would be provided. I almost cried watching parents and children finally relax for probably the first time in months, maybe even years, knowing that they were safe and that their children were safe. The shelter jumped right in and gave everyone toiletries, showers, food, medical attention, place to sleep, etc. I’ve never seen someone be so thankful for an orange. The kids blank stares turned to smiles.
When we left that night, another bus load of immigrants were being dropped at the shelter. As they walked in, their clothing in plastic trash bags, looking dirty, exhausted, and scared, we opened our car windows and spontaneously started saying “Bienvenidos,” or “Welcome,” to them as they walked past us. Every single person smiled warily and said “Gracias,” or “Thank you.” There had to be more than 30 people on that bus and every single one did. We felt unity across cultures at that moment.
Today was a fantastic and enlightening day. I will never forget the faces of the people that I met and I wish I could’ve done so much more to make them feel welcome in the United States. I wish I could erase the pain and trauma they endured on their journey to safety.