SANTA PAULA, Calif. — At 4 a.m., one morning, Rev. Joel Hortiales asked his three kids: “Estan listos hijos? (Are you ready?).” 

What You Need To Know

  • On Friday, the MPP or "Remain in Mexico" program ended with 25 asylum seekers crossing the San Ysidro port of entry

  • As many as 25,000 asylum seekers could come into the U.S. in the coming weeks with the end of the "Remain in Mexico" program

  • Migrants are being screened for COVID-19 and their cases are being reviewed before being allowed in

  • MPP migrants will be allowed to cross through Brownsville, Texas starting on February 21, and El Paso on February 26

Ahead of them was a long day. Hortiales and his children packed donated shoes and clothes into boxes and loaded them into their van to drive 200 miles south of Santa Paula to San Diego.

“As a family we pack all of these things together,” Hortiales said. “We are excited. We pray for the people, and we are so, so happy to deliver all this help.”

As the director of Hispanic and Latino Ministries at Border Concerns with the United Methodist Church in the Pacific region, Hortiales has been helping migrants for almost a decade. As a father of three, Hortiales — who grew up in Mexico — was shocked to see the conditions the nearly 60,000 asylum applicants were living in south the border, and it bothered him to see children who should be in the prime of their education struggling to survive.

“It’s awful. It is something that is, in my opinion, very inhuman. It is sad that so many kids were around with no place to have their own space, and their own place to learn and develop their skills. It was bad. It broke my heart,” Hortiales said.

When he learned that the “Remain in Mexico” program — known has MPP and meant to keep asylum seekers in Mexico — would be coming to an end, Hortiales jumped into action and drove south with donation and supplies.

As he drove, the first 25 asylum seekers crossed the San Ysidro port of entry after their cases were assessed and they received a COVID-19 test. In the coming weeks, nearly 25,000 asylum seekers are expected to be granted entry into the United States. Hortiales said he must do his best to quickly fill the donation container that sits at the United Methodist Church just minutes from the border. 

The United Methodist Church is just one of many organizations that over the next few weeks and months will help migrants with shelter, food, and clothing. Hortiales will still need many more donations before he will have enough to help all the migrants.

He said hygiene items and clothes in good condition are great items to donate, but at the end of the day, he said clothing is not the only thing the families will need.

“In my experience, these people already suffered a lot in their journey to get to Tijuana or any other point of entry. They are so hurt that the only message I have in that particular moment, in that first encounter is: Welcome. Bienvenidos,” he said.

After all, dignity is the most valuable gift he could ever provide.

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