In 2019, Felicia Rangel-Samporano, a stay-at-home mom in Brownsville, Texas, joined forces with Victor Cavazos, a software engineer, to start the nonprofit Sidewalk School.
At first, the Sidewalk School focused on educational programs for children living in migrant camps in the Mexican cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, right on the other side of the Rio Grande. Five years later, in addition to offering education programs, the Sidewalk School has grown into a provider of food, medical services, shelter, and even tech troubleshooting for the U.S. government’s glitch-filled CBPOne app, which asylum seekers in Mexico are required to use to request an appointment with U.S. border officials.
Rangel-Samporano doesn’t see the need ending anytime soon, and she worries that disinformation is playing an outsized role in shaping Americans’ views about the border and the humanitarian needs there. It’s also affecting asylum seekers who are starved for accurate information about the U.S. immigration system, Rangel-Samporano says. Both the federal government and the Texas state government, which is investing billions in apprehension and detention under its Operation Lone Star initiative, should provide that information so that asylum seekers can make the best choices for their families, she says. “Giving people correct, accurate information,” she adds, “will do way more than giving them no information and putting up barbed wire and walls.”
Rangel-Samporano also talks about the lack of visibility and resources for Black migrants, who face racism and harsher treatment on their journeys. And she says that family separation is still occurring at the border. “It happens all the time and in so many ways.”
“If you really want to know what’s happening on the Mexican side of the border, follow the humanitarian groups like the Sidewalk School, who are working there,” Rangel-Samporano says. “We are there every day, seven days a week.”
Follow the Sidewalk School on Facebook or on X at @SidewalkSchool
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