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Christmas Comes Early: RGV Orgs. Bring Gifts To Children At Migrant Camp

Santa passes out gifts a day early for children at the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico.
Reynaldo Leaños Jr.
Santa passes out gifts a day early for children at the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico.

Dozens of kids stand anxiously in line wearing their face masks and winter jackets at the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico.

“Form a line, form a line,” a man tells the children who are very excited this crisp morning.

The kids gathered on Christmas Eve to receive gifts from a special visitor in town… Santa Claus.

Rio Grande Valley organizations like the Angry Tias and Abuelas and Team Brownsville collected about 200 stockings that have gifts and candy inside for the children.

Cristina is from El Salvador and only wanted her first name used because she has an ongoing asylum case. She said she’s glad local organizations are giving kids gifts today.

“It’s Christmas time and I think we need to give kids a little bit of joy,” she said. “So they can forget a bit about how we’re living here.”

Cristina is one of about 700 asylum seekers living at a migrant camp in Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.

She and her son have been in Matamoros for more than 15 months. Cristina, like the others at the camp, are in the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico program, formerly known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.

MPP forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for months while their immigration cases unfold in U.S. immigration courts.

Cristina reminisces about Christmas back home in El Salvador.

“Our family would get together and make tamales,” she said.

Cristina said it’s been frustrating and traumatic to remain in Mexico for more than a year, but she has hope that she and her son will be reunited in the U.S. with her husband and her other son in the new year.

She also said she wants people to remember that they’re stuck in Mexico and wants people to put themselves in their shoes and to try to help them in whatever way they can because they can’t return to their home countries.

Cindy Candia of the Angry Tias and Abuelas is helping give out the donated gifts to the kids.

“We don’t have that many kids anymore, but we still have kids and it shouldn’t be like this,” Candia said. “Shame on our country, shame on Mexico.”

Candia, like Cristina, is hopeful about what 2021 will bring, but both know that change won’t happen overnight.

Members of the incoming Biden-Harris administration have said that the situation at the border will take months to resolve.

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Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at reynaldo@tpr.org and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos