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Ok. This is gonna be the start of the mega-thread for the trip.

I start this thread with excitement, nervousness, humility, and with intention.

We introduced ourselves and “invited” folks to join us spiritually. I brought #Pittsburgh’s religious leadership with me. My hope is that we can become motivated to engage deeper in this work, starting with myself.
Next, we continued with stories from the border and a broad overview of some of the legal situations here. #Metering, #MPP (Migrant Protection Protocol), and the situation with #MexicanRefugees. More on that as we get our legal briefing later tonight.
In short, the legal system doesn’t make it easy. It is super complicated and hard to keep track of. Part of that is because it changes from day to day.

How anyone is supposed to navigate this is wild to me.
I always imagined that if you could make to the US, one toe inside, and you’re an asylum seeker, our govt would do everything in its power to protect you.

That is not what is happening.
In fact, those seeking asylum don’t even get to step inside the US, held at bat by border officers. Instead, they are in a system called #metering, which is like the deli counter model of ALLOWING THE PROCESS TO EVEN START. Which is wild to me.
Those that have their number called get to the border for processing. Most, and most by a lot, end up back in Mexico after processing to wait for the results. Time is measured in months, if one is lucky. Average processing for asylum cases is over 650 days.
This process of sending people back is called #MPP or #MigrantProtectionProtocol.

Once in the asylum process, they don’t get to wait in the US. If they get caught on the US side, having crossed illegally, they are sent back to Mexico to await this process.
El Paso has a 95-97% denial rate in those cases.
I tweet all of this, I’m no expert, I’m sure I’ve got some details oversimplified or wrong, but it’s late and I’m tired and I’m doing my best.
Here’s your takeaway:
-the process is super complicated
-it is forcing people waiting for asylum cases (in one context or another) to wait months in Mexico
-everything is being done to make this a hard or nearly impossible to do
Tomorrow morning, we head to Ciudad Juarez!
Good morning!!

As #rabbis do, we started our day in prayer. It was grounding for such a day like today.
Following that City Counselor @PeterSvarzbein shared with us his story of migration.

It was a good reminder how “migration is natural”, which was a point made last night.

He explained how #ElPaso and #Juarez are very much one community separated by a border.
Broader El Paso has 90K people, Juarez has 1.5 million people, and with other cities around means that the region has 3 MILLION people. That is a ton larger than I expected.
It is also interesting to note, in terms of El Paso history, is that this location has been used for centuries as part of north-south migration.
Then @PeterSvarzbein and I spoke about our shared Jewish Argentina familial connections.

And then we spoke about the #massshooting in #ElPaso and #Pittsburgh. The solidarity and connection we now have over this thing.

And then, we shared a hug.
He added, and I agreed, that these #shootings are an attack on who we are, what we stand for, and the work that we do.

But it won’t stop us. We will continue to labor to build relationships, to be in solidarity, and be good neighbors.
We found ourselves at an unexpected slowdown entering Mexico. A long line and eventually a requirement to get off the bus and go to a Mexican governmental office.
It was interesting to recognize the relative ease of making our way through, even with this challenge, and to recognize the challenge many people likely have.
It took about an hour and a half, start to finish, but that is with the fact that we’re:
-an organized trip
-white people
After that we went to one of the migrant centers in Juarez. This building houses individuals who have already presented themselves at the border and have already gone through the #metering process.
They are here as a result of the #MPP which increasingly feels cruel. It is also known as the #RemainInMexico program.
There, we were given a tour of the facility.

250+ beds
651 people

(Some kids sleep with their parents)
This is a former factory with giant rooms for beds and for storage (for resources to be distributed to similar shelters).
The people there shared stories of fleeing horror, not just in their own countries, but the dangers lurking just outside the walls.

To them, the #dententioncenters would be an improvement.
This is just a great reminder of how complicated this thing really is. How the call for #closethecamps, one that I believe in, is actually not that simple. That though, they’re terrible, they provide something better, in this case.

More on that tomorrow when we go to a center.
Then we made our way back to the US. It took some time and we walked across the bridge.

One could feel, viscerally, the privledge we had as Americans.

We were told that the road blocking has gotten increasingly worse for no good reason.
Which is a good reminder of what I shared earlier, that this is one community divided by a border.

We had lunch and headed to an Announciation House, which houses migrants on the US side. ICE and others who release folks on the US side can be housed there.

A wonderful Catholic organization that deserves your support. They are doing amazing work.
Because folks who don’t speak Spanish are not subject to #MPP then they cannot be sent back into Mexico. As such, Announciation house is an option for them.
And now we’re headed to the site of the #ELPasoShooting at the Walmart.

And as we’re pulling up there now, as I type, I feel a lot of trepidation. This will be my first visit to a site of a #massshooting other than the one in #Pittsburgh where I live.
Nevermind, headed there tomorrow!
Today begins another day at the southern border. We are headed right now to the detention center.

It is 35 minutes out of El Paso. This is done to separate the city experience from the detention. A not in my backyard situation.
As we go, you can read the prayer I wrote for the #lightsforlibertyvigil in #Pittsburgh this summer. It is in a prayer in the context of #detentioncenters


We’re parked outside before going in. This is our first glance.
We’ve just come back from our visit from the #detentioncenter. They are prisons. The majority of people who are in them have not committed crimes. They wear blue jumpsuits.
The young men in there look exhausted. Their eyes wanted human connection, desperate, and lonely.

They just want to have what we have.
I’m horrified. The cleaned up, show prison they showed us, even if everything they told us was true, is disgusting.

I feel gross.

You should be angry.
Let me be clear. It was clean, even pristine. By disgusting, I mean my sense of morality.
Now, on a walking tour of old #ElPaso. Diego, our tour guide, points out this mural. Once again, #Juarez and El Paso are one community.
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