There are soup kitchens closer to Verona than the one at the Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, Texas. But Verona residents Monica Taylor and Laura Morowitz made the journey to the Rio Grande river town in late July to serve food–and love–to 185 asylum seekers waiting across the river in Matamoros, Mexico.
“We arrive to three enormous lines of people waiting to eat: children first, then women, and then men, and we are incredibly grateful for our Italian and Jewish instincts to make a lot of food because we were able to generously serve every single person,” Taylor wrote. “After dinner, we give out shirts to the women and children. And even though we all know that this is the most desperate situation, we find moments to laugh together. I offer one woman who is eight months pregnant an extra-large shirt to cover her belly and, giggling, she shares that she would prefer to show her figure.”
Taylor and Morowitz are educators who are active in a variety of community-building efforts in our area, but they had been struggling with how to respond to the plight of asylum seekers in Texas border towns. Through a Facebook post, they learned about the work of Team Brownsville, which helps asylum seekers that come to the Brownsville/Matamoros international bridges and the Brownsville bus station. Team Brownsville provides asylum seekers with food, clothing and bedding, as well as supplies that they might need on the rest of their immigration journey.
The pair quickly booked tickets for Texas and packed their bags with supplies for the asylum seekers. When they got to Brownsville, they were immediately put to work, bringing carts of food across into Matamoros to serve dinner and distribute things that the asylum seekers might need. Taylor says that some will wait for months, or even years, to see a U.S. immigration judge to plead their case.
“Once dinner ended, the crowd thinned,” Taylor wrote. “People began to approach us and ask us for items they needed, like wipes and detergents since there is no running water and no easy way to wash hands, face, or clothes. Luckily, we had some small Ziploc bags of wipes and powder detergent that the regulars had arranged. Most of the asylum seekers only have the clothes they are wearing. The women became excited when we distributed clean underwear, handing them as many pairs as we could before we ran out.”
The three days that Taylor and Morowitz spent in Brownsville were a stark reminder of how well off they are at home, and how much remains to be done for other people in the world. “It has felt like such a small act, especially because at the end of the evening we are able to leave, to return back to the U.S., to go back to our lives of comfort, privilege, and certainty,” she wrote. “Each night that we walked back across the bridge to Brownsville, we noted the cool breeze off of the river, the hundreds of crackles that flocked the trees, and the way the light changed as evening approached. It was a momentary comfort but also a gleaming reminder of the vastness of the plight of asylum seekers.”
You can read Taylor’s full post on Romper here. For more information on ways to help Team Brownsville, see its website.