Migrant dads waiting at a bus station in the Rio Grande Valley likely weren't thinking about how to celebrate Father’s Day this past weekend. Still, local volunteers tried to make their ongoing journeys more comfortable for them and their families.
Samantha Trujillo, 22, is one of those volunteers working with the group La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, a local organization in the Rio Grande Valley.
She spent a recent morning packing toiletries like toothpaste, combs, soap and more into little plastic baggies at LUPE’s office in San Juan.
Trujillo and other volunteers gave these care packages to migrant dads at the McAllen bus station. The men were just released from being in the custody of immigration officials, and will head north to wait for their day in immigration court. Some of them are seeking asylum from their home countries.
“They have no one else to lean on, they don’t,” said Trujillo. “They don’t have family members at every checkpoint, they don’t have people they know helping them out giving them stuff they need.”
Some of these fathers are the same age as the young volunteers helping them.
The day Trujilo and others from LUPE handed out care packages was actually the day after Father’s Day. However, it was the day of Father’s Day in Guatemala and El Salvador.
“Mother’s Day is so heavily celebrated versus Father’s Day and we really wanted to make a difference and show fathers that they are appreciated and that we do see them and we do hear them,” said Trujillo.
The volunteers also packed clothes for migrant children and families to be delivered to the Catholic Charities RGV Respite Center’s new location in downtown McAllen.
Once all the care packages and clothes were packed, the volunteers headed to the bus station.
Inside the station there were members of LUPE and members of Angry Tias and Abuelas, another local organization helping migrants.
Emily Caldwell, 20, is from College Station and helped volunteer. It was her first time at the bus station and volunteering in McAllen. Caldwell said being on the ground wasn’t what she expected.
“These people, they’ve come here, they just moved up here because they didn’t have any other choice,” said Caldwell. “It’s really important to recognize what they’re going through. This is hard.”
Samantha Gonzalez, a 22-year-old Valley resident, volunteered at the bus station before, but said being there gives her a mix of emotions. She has seen family reunions, and people who haven’t been reunited with their children or spouses.
“If there’s any way that I can help in making their day happier, even if it’s bringing a breakfast taco, you know spending 10 minutes out of my day to stop at a Stripes and come feed someone, or just to say hello, I’m going to do it,” said Gonzalez.
She said it was important for her to be volunteer to reiterate that all fathers are important.
“Especially our migrant fathers who have trekked a really dangerous journey with their children to be here and by the grace of God they’re together because this administration is still separating children,” said Gonzalez.
One dad the volunteers helped is from El Salvador. The 24-year-old dad is sitting on a bench at the bus station with his one and a half year old daughter. Next to him is his partner. He said they left El Salvador in mid-May and are now headed to Los Angeles where they have family.
Back home he was a farmer and helped his dad grow corn and beans. He said he’s glad he received a care package today and is hoping he can provide a better life for his daughter and his parents back home.
“I’m grateful to God for being here,” he said in Spanish. “We hope to win our case because we trust in God.”
The Salvadoran father said he and his family will arrive in L.A. later this week to begin their new life.