By Dailyn Rodriguez, Guest Columnist
After learning from different immigrant rights groups about asylum seekers getting dropped off at the San Bernardino Greyhound bus station, I decided I needed to do more than just send donations. On the morning of May 26, I made my way inland and arrived at the motel across from the bus station. This is where arrivals from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras were being housed, fed and clothed as they arranged plans for their next stop.
Most headed to the East Coast by bus or plane, depending on what their family members, who had to pay for their tickets, were able to afford. If traveling by bus, we would go to the bus station and get their ticket. Many arrivals couldn’t read, and a couple of them were not fluent in Spanish, as they were coming from rural towns where indigenous dialects are spoken. After getting the tickets, we went over their itinerary in detail, highlighting the stops they were going to make and trying to spell out how to pronounce the name of the stops and time in English to help them prevent missing connections if they had no help.
The mothers and fathers nervously tried to memorize everything they could and asked for us to go over their itinerary multiple times until feeling somewhat ready. They did this while their young children played outside, oblivious of the journey they were making.
A couple of hours before their trek, we prepared one backpack per family, packed with snacks, blankets, socks and medicine. As they anxiously waited for departure, some showered at the motel. “I’ve never showered with warm water before,” one asylum seeker told me as I showed how to turn on the shower head. “This feels nice.” After showering, they changed into donated clothes; it was the first chance they had to do so since leaving their respective countries.
A kid named Angel came to me asking if we had any shoes for him. He walked around with sandals even though it rained outside. I helped him look, and we found one pair that fit. They were ripped but he immediately wanted to put them on. I grabbed a pair of socks that proved to be a perfect fit. Angel jumped for joy and ran to play with the other kids. This brought me to tears. Something that we take for granted, such as pair of shoes, meant the world for this kid.
A couple of asylum seekers talked to me about life in their countries, their journey and their plans in the United States. They all expressed trepidation about being able to find a job, learn English and help their children through school. But all expressed confidence that they would succeed. They also felt sad about leaving the motel behind. “This is the first place we have been treated like real humans,” one of the young mothers said to me, with tears running down her cheek as we waited at the bus station for her trip to Virginia. “We have received love and help, more than I expected.”
My day helping asylum seekers ended at midnight as I watched the last group take off by bus with one on the little boys looking at me through the window waving goodbye.