El Chaparral Encampment, Tijuana | Credit: Nancy Edmundson

After hearing about the desperate situation of families in the migrant camps just across the San Diego/Tijuana border, the Interfaith Sanctuary Alliance of Santa Barbara could not ignore the call for help. Working with local faith communities, the Interfaith Sanctuary Alliance collected thousands of dollars’ worth of donations of nonperishable food, water, and hygiene supplies. On May 25, volunteers from the ISA and Drivers Listos filled up four vehicles with the donated supplies. They left early in the morning to drive down and deliver the supplies to the El Chapparal Camp in Tijuana, in partnership with the San Diego-based nonprofit Border Angels (www.borderangels.org).

The ISA volunteers were deeply impacted by the experience of visiting the encampment: Anna DiStefano said: “Although much of the experience was painfully overwhelming, (entering the encampment) was the part that broke our hearts. The need is so great and so many people were clamoring for food and diapers … As we worked with the organizers, we smiled, and everyone was so gracious and appreciative even in their personal desperation that was so palpable. The population (at the one encampment we visited) fluctuates between 2,000 to 2,500 and almost half of the population are children. Tents are on top of each other and conditions seem inhumane.”

Volunteers headed for Tijuana | Ellen Broidy

In coming weeks, the Interfaith Sanctuary Alliance is working to establish a task force to continue humanitarian support for asylum seekers living at camps in the camps at the border. The conditions at the border are constantly changing, and so the task force will explore a variety of ways to provide support.

Recognizing that the needs of immigrant communities are not just at the border, the Interfaith Sanctuary Alliance is also working with faith communities to raise funds for local applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allows people who were brought to the United States as children to apply for legal work permits, empowering them to earn income to support themselves and their families. The cost of DACA applications and renewals can be prohibitive, and these donations come at a crucial time, as many households lost income during the pandemic and are now struggling to make ends meet.

The ISA aims to raise enough money to cover the cost of at least 40 DACA applications ($495 each). Funds will be distributed to DACA applicants in partnership with local agencies IMPORTA SB and Immigrant Hope Santa Barbara.

“DACA opens doors to new employment opportunities in the U.S.,” said Diane Martinez, executive director of Immigrant Hope Santa Barbara. “Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many DACA recipients are unable to pay the $495 DACA application fee.”

And one recipient told the Alliance what DACA meant to her: “DACA has changed my life forever. … DACA gave me the opportunity to continue my higher education without worrying about my legal status. I continue to work under the DACA program to help my family financially and live on my own independently.”

For more information or to donate, please visit www.sbact.org/daca.


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