I have been working in the social services field for many years and care deeply about the fate of immigrants. What Trump is doing to them is inhuman. I can not stand to see what our country is doing. I had great hopes that volunteering at Al Otro Lado would allow me to help. It was great to connect with all the migrants, but the organization itself had so many problems. It does not feel good to be there. The director is clear that he wants lawyers to be there. If you are not a lawyer and, worse, if you are an older person as I am, you don't feel like you are needed or wanted.
I have worked as a volunteer translator and interpreter for Al Otro Lado on many occasions. They are an outstanding organization, and I am in awe of the incredible work their staff and volunteers are doing in Tijuana.
Working with Al Otro Lado was an experience that to call "incredible" would be an understatement. In the past I have not always seen myself as a leader or risk-taker, but working here will make you become those two things. It's amazing how you can lead a project after being there for just one day, because the volunteer turnover rate is so high and yet the organization is able to run smoothly and continue pursuing and accomplishing their goals.
Even though we were only there for four days, I know our group collectively made an impact on the organization and hopefully on the lives of those who came in for help as well. However, we also all took away so much from this experience. While I can only speak for myself, I have realized a few important things, the main one being that WE are the ones who must make sure government officials are held accountable for breaking the law because if not us, who?
I could write about Al Otro Lado for so long, but to remain brief, an idea that has stayed very present in my mind is something another volunteer said during our debrief meeting, which was that "we don't have anything they couldn't have" meaning the migrants. Pure luck (or lack thereof) is why we are in our position and they are in theirs. Another important idea related to this is to move away from a victim-mentality, because while the migrants are victims, they are also so incredibly strong and resilient, and we must see them and treat them that way.
Overall I am so thankful for being able to go on this trip and for the absolutely amazing group of people I met. Thank you to everyone who made this possible and all those who continue to take time to work with Al Otro Lado.
Volunteering with Al Otro Lado has been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. I recently spent 12 days volunteering with AOL in Tijuana. I was awestruck to witness the dedication, passion, and ferocity with which AOL defends migrant populations from the massive human rights abuses being committed by the US and Mexican governments. Their work is incredibly vital and I absolutely believe that anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of people fleeing brutal violence should volunteer or donate to AOL.
I am an immigration attorney and volunteer for Rise to Reunite. We have been volunteering, marketing and fundraising for Al Otro Lado and I do not know a better group of people fighting injustice for migrants and reuniting families at the border. They are incredibly knowledgeable, fantastic at organizing and passionate. I have met with Nicole Ramos multiple times at the TJ border and I will follow her anywhere. We accompanied families to the US border where the families were refused. I have known Nora Phillips for many years and she focuses on immigrants with mental health issues and who are homeless in the US. they are the only non-profit focusing on the homeless immigrant population. Katharine Gordon is their volunteer coordinator and attorney and she traveled with the caravan from Mexico city to TJ. I have an interview with her attached. She is wonderful and they work together so well as team. I cannot think of any other organization who is better at fighting for the rights of immigrants. I am honored to know them and having the opportunity to volunteer for them.
I have had the opportunity to work with and see this organization grow in approximately the past two years, and can only attest to its indispensability in addressing the domestic and international human rights violations that are occuring at the border at an increasing rate. Because Al Otro Lado is so uniquely situated at the U.S.-Mexico border at one of the largest ports of entry in the country, and because border agents continue to employ strategies to systematically deny people their access to legal remedies to escape harm, support for this organization is as great as ever. With continued support, the organization can continue to maintain flexibility in response to changing U.S. policies while also working with other advocates to develop a way to address the humanitarian crisis of the century. My involvement with this organization has shaped not only my legal education, but my very conception of what excellent legal advocacy and community organizing looks like, and if possible, anyone and everyone who has the necessary skills (language capabilities, background in immigration law, client-centered lawyering, the ability to work with victims of trauma, humility and positivity) should pitch in and do their part to help.
Al Otro Lado is doing exceptional immigration and advocacy work in an extremely difficult time. My volunteer experience in Tijuana was wonderful. I truly felt I was able to make a difference in the lives of Al Otro Lado's clients in my short time in Mexico. I highly recommend that people volunteer and donate to this important cause.