A story about love at the border
I just returned from a trip to the U.S.-Mexico Border in Tijuana with our team. We worked in an asylum clinic, visited shelters, and met with local activists to understand the scale and scope of the refugee crisis. We also delivered hundreds of your handmade Valentine’s Day cards and letters to migrant families from our #ReclaimLove campaign.
We are excited to tell you the story.
Read on to hear the story about the impact of your messages of love and solidarity — and more ways that you can help.
Madre Asunta is a long-established women’s shelter in Tijuana. These days, it is filled to capacity. It houses thirty-five women and twenty-five children. Many are seeking asylum in the United States and escaping persecution at the hands of traffickers, abusive spouses, or gang members who have threatened to kill them.
As the women and children sat together to eat, the senior nun La Hermana introduced my teammate Julianna Piazzola and me. I had just come from volunteering as a lawyer in an asylum clinic in Tijuana. It felt like working triage in a war zone.
Typically, these families would be going through the asylum process in the U.S. But the Trump administration has implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as the Migrant Persecution Protocols or the “Remain in Mexico” program. Under this program, 60,000 asylum-seekers who have presented themselves at the border have been forced back across the border to Mexico – where they are still in danger and their persecutors can find them. MPP is widely condemned as a horrific policy that has manufactured a humanitarian crisis. These asylum-seekers are tormented by two countries — the one that they are fleeing and the one that won’t let them in.
I looked down at my bag filled with your cards. It felt inadequate. How are words on paper going to help?
Then I spotted a Valentine’s card made by a child in bright colors markers. I started to imagine all of you: thousands of children and parents, students and teachers, friends and teammates who sat down together to make these cards together. I said:
“There are thousands of people in the United States who are thinking of you right now, who care about you. We are sorry for the cruelty of our government and its policies. We have a holiday in America called Valentine’s Day, a day of love. Many people have written you letters and cards to show you that we love you. And because we love you, we will fight for you. You are our sisters and brothers. Your children are our children. When you feel alone, we hope you can look at their cards and know that we are with you.”
A mother in the front of the room began to weep. Soon many mothers wiped away tears. Julianna and I wept with them and passed out all your letters and cards. Children took the cards with big smiles. Mothers embraced us and said thank you.
“It’s just a grain of sand,” I kept saying.
“Pero es importante,” said one mother.
“It’s an important grain of sand.”
We left the bag of letters with La Hermana, the senior sister of the shelter. The letters are now making their rounds to all the major shelters in Tijuana and they are being delivered to hundreds of mothers, children, and families. It was such a simple gesture, a small offering, and yet more powerful than any of us could have imagined.
In the revolutionary love framework, the first act of love is wonder – to draw close to another and hear their stories and grieve with them, because in sharing in their pain, we gain the information we need to fight with and for them. Together we all took one small step to show these mothers and children that they are not forgotten. Now if you are moved to do more, scroll down for ways to fight with and for these families.
Valarie + Julianna and the Revolutionary Love Team
READY FOR MORE?
- Watch Valarie’s Facebook Live from Tijuana here and experience the refugee crisis at our border through her eyes.
- Donate to the women’s shelter Madre Asunta. Your donations support these women directly with food, shelter, clothing, and schooling for the children. (Donations go through Casa del Migrante.)
- If you are a lawyer, volunteer for a weekend to work in an asylum clinic with Al Otro Lado. There is a dearth of lawyers to serve these asylum-seekers. If you can take one case (you don’t need prior experience; you will be paired with a mentor), please go to Al Otro Lado.
- If you have an extra room in your home and can host a family who needs a temporary place to stay in the U.S. after they have won asylum, sign up as a sponsor.
And a huge thank you to our friends at Alliance San Diego for organizing this trip and for reimagining what’s possible along our borders with a new border vision. Learn about Alliance San Diego here.
Photos courtesy of Alliance San Diego
THANK YOU FOR MAKING #RECLAIMLOVE A SUCCESS — FOUR YEARS IN A ROW.
This Valentine’s Day, we raised our voices to #ReclaimLove as a force for justice. Every year since 2017, our annual #ReclaimLove campaign has reached millions on social media, engaged thousands of people in watch parties and letter-writing campaigns, and built a network of leaders and influencers committed to fighting hate and fear with love. We believe that we birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community.
Now I invite you to join a series of virtual gatherings with me hosted by Dream Corps and the Revolutionary Love Project. To join, pre-order my forthcoming book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (out June 16th). The book will equip us with a framework to practice revolutionary love in our lives and our movements, this election year and beyond.