At the border of Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, around 2,500 people live in a camp for asylum seekers. Most have come from Central America, and all are waiting to enter the United States; the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, requires asylum-seekers remain in Mexico as their cases are adjudicated in the U.S..
Jennifer Harbury, an attorney and immigrant rights activist, tells TIME that the camp began to form in 2018 when “a huge pileup of people” developed on the international bridges.
“The U.S. government thought that would be enough to deter people from coming to ask for asylum,” she explains. “But if they go home, they’re dead.”
So the grassroots group Angry Tias and Abuelas (ATA) was formed. Eight women in two South Texas border counties, including Harbury, came together with the goal of providing emergency assistance to asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, with the help of volunteers from all across the U.S., the Texas-based organization not only helps distribute food and essential items but also offers emotional support.
ATA has temporarily stopped crossing the Mexican border to avoid the risk of transmitting the rapidly spreading coronavirus. However, the group says it’s still working to provide funding, food and medicine to the asylum seekers living on the other side.
“Angry Tias and Abuelas speaks to how we felt when we heard about child separation and zero tolerance,” Elizabeth Cavazos, a mental health professional in ATA from Texas, tells TIME. “We’re upset. We’re pissed.”