Tea People Helping w Border Crisis

$4,591 of $4,500 goal

Raised by 58 people in 5 months
Jeni Dodd and I are traveling to Albuquerque, NM July 5-18 to help begin the large case load created by the most recent "zero tolerance" policy at the US Border. 
We will specifically be working with children and transgender detainees at Cibola County Detention Center in Grants, NM. 
We are volunteering through the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC ) 
I will be driving from MS and will meet Jeni in Dallas, TX. We will drive the rest of the way to Albuquerque. 
We are willing to pay for the entire trip ourselves, but we have had requests from family and friends about how they could help with the journey. 
Our entire trip will cost us roughly $3750 for the 14 days. 
We are trying to minimize costs by driving instead of renting a car and staying in Airbnb accommodations to avoid having to rent two rooms. 
Anything that is not spent directly on trip costs or is above and beyond the goal will be donated to New Mexico Immigrant Law Center in Albuquerque. 
We appreciate any help you are willing to offer! All funds will go directly to defray travel expenses and then will be donated directly to NMILC.
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Thanks to everyone who donated to our GoFundMe campaign to New Mexico.
We have received all the funds and have sent the excess of the campaign to NMILC.
We were able to send $1000 to them because of your generosity!
Jeni and I were totally blown away by your support!
Thanks again,
Jeni & Jason
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Dear friends,

This will be our last update through the GoFundMe campaign. Thanks to your amazing support, we covered our expenses for the New Mexico and the New Mexico Immigrant Law center volunteer work we did (we spent less than we had even budgeted!!).

Even more phenomenal…we have almost raised $1,000 in addition to our expenses to donate to #NMILC! Jason will keep the campaign open until this Friday to see if we can hit that goal. He will then send the money to NMILC with a card signed with all of your names. So please, get any last-minute donations in before Friday night!

If you want to keep receiving updates on our continued work on behalf of non-documented immigrants, please email me at jenifer.dodd@gmail.com. We will either set up a newsletter or a Facebook page.

I came back with Jason to Mississippi. He drove to New Mexico, so we could save money on his airfare and a rental car. I didn’t think it was right for him to have to do all the driving by himself. But, it has also been soul-healing to be able to work on his tea farm, process tea and try to use a little labor to work out the pain and sadness from last week. We both found it difficult to absorb what we had witnessed and experienced.

The hard work on the tea farm reminded me that throwing myself into the immense amount of work needed to help these people is far more beneficial and productive way to deal with my sadness than wallowing, shopping or Charleston Chews.

Jason and I will continue working for NMILC. I am currently drafting a brief distilling the legal issues of the recent Attorney General’s decision that attempts to disavow domestic violence as grounds for asylum. Once completed, attorneys at NMILC will be able to cut and paste arguments in to motions on behalf of their specific clients – clients like women fleeing gang violence when they refuse to become the girlfriend of a gang member or women who have repeatedly reported abuse by their husbands/ significant others to the police, but the police are unable or unwilling to protect them.

I have also agreed to take a case of an immigrant being detained at CIBOLA detention center and will be their attorney from start to finish of their case. If nothing else, I at least, I hope, I can make certain that if they meet the legal requirements for asylum, they get a zealous advocate on their behalf.

Jason and I have also been brainstorming ideas for how to help these overworked organizations like NMILC. They are trying so hard, but completely overwhelmed. Jason was able to catch up almost 5 years of back filing and scanning of documents. This means, it will be much easier to manage cases going forward with similar issues because NMILC team will be able to quickly find successful past strategies. The fact is, it is difficult to be the most effective and efficient when the organization barely has the human resources to simply respond to the barrage of neediness from their clientele.

Many of you have asked us how you can help. While we work out some concrete answers for this question, I think the obvious and immediate answer is to continue to make this issue relevant. Many times through the week, Jason and I talked about how soup kitchens are flush with food and volunteers on Thanksgiving, but come January 2nd they have neither. It is really easy to let this slip to the back burner with the constant onslaught of some new and equally appalling crisis in the news cycle.

We MUST stay diligent. This issue will not be resolved immediately, this week, this month or even within a year. But the moment we relent, ease up a little, that is moment this horrid agenda will be pushed again. While it feels insurmountable at times, Jason and I both agree there is only one way forward. It’s the same way forward as in the tea garden. We have to diligently tend to this garden of hope and love. Each of you tilled that soil for us this last week with your support, we planted the seeds by volunteering. Now, let’s do the real hard work, the daily grind needed to cultivate the America we all know…the one that unequivocally recognizes that it is not right to separate and cage families legally seeking asylum. The one that recognizes the rule of law and does not penalize those, as is their right, seeking sanctuary from violence and persecution. The America that respects dignity and humanity. The America that is proud to be compassionate. The America that has always cherished life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you all again for your generous support!
-Jason &Jeni
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We have an attitude of gratitude today for our sheer luck of birth geography.
Jeni's update today:
Good morning friends. We had a hard day and night yesterday. But, at least I can say good morning to my family and friends. There are several kind, loving people detained in Cibola detention center today that do not have that luxury this morning. Detainedbecause they legally presented themselves at the border requesting asylum from our country, asylum from violence and lack of protection from persecution from their home country governments.


I could not stop myself from crying last night and even now as I am thinking about what to write, tears are coming to my mind. (I have to really say thank you to Jason who despite his own despair at what we saw, spent the night trying to cheer me up and bringme out of my extreme sadness).


But it is important that we give a voice to these people that have no voice. So, let me tell you about just some of the people and things we saw yesterday and let me just report it. Later, I will take what I saw and talk about the legal implications more in-depth.


1.  The first person we met was a gentleman, about 55 years old from Mexico. He reported drug activity by the Jalisco cartel/gang to the police. He was abducted, beaten, tortured and raped by members of Jalisco. He survived, presented himself at a port of entry to the US and requested asylum. He was denied asylum and deported back to Mexico because according to the adjudicator, he was in no danger. Within one day of his return to Mexico, the gang again captured him, beat him raped, tried to poison him. He was able to get away and again presented himself at the border for asylum. Our government found poison in his blood upon his presentation at the port of entry. He is awaiting adjudication of his claim, but because of his prior deportation it is unlikely he will succeed.

2.  Since the pro bono law group, we were with yesterday, had been to the detention center on Monday, 3 women in the trans pod had been raped because the facility had let a man identifyingas a straight man (“cis male”) into the pod.

3.  A man in his mid-forties, came up to the attorneys. He had tears in his eyes and handed over a drawing he did of the “worst day of his life”. (see the picture we got permission from him to post). It shows him, and his 19-year-old daughter being taken away in chains as his 14-year-old son watches in terror. That was almost a month ago, he has not been able to speak to or know exactly where his son or daughter are.

4.  There were about 70 fathers/grandfathers who had been separated from their children/grand-children as a result of the zero-tolerance policy implementation. None hadbeen able to speak to their children/ grand-children since separation, most have no idea where their children/ grandchildren are.

5.  A 17-year-old boy, a minor had been mistakenly placed in the adult ward. The detention center authorities were aware of the mistake but had no plans to rectify the situation. I will have to editorialize on this point. I have never seen such terror in anyone’s eyes. He was terrified and didn’t understand where he was or why. He was begging for someone to help…there was nothing we could do. His face and terror will haunt me the rest of my life.

6.  One of the grand-fathers (about 70-75 years-old) from Mexico, had brought his 16-year grand-daughter to the port of entry, legally requested asylum on the grounds that his grand-daughter had been targeted by a gang. She had been tortured and raped. They reported the attacks to the local authorities and received no protection. He has no idea where she is now since ICE separated them. We had to tell him we had no way of finding her location because there is no system of tracking separated families. As he walked away, with the hobble of age in his step, he had tears in his eyes.

7.  Some of the procedural points:

a.  All the documents for any of the 600 detainees must be carried in and out of the facility every time the lawyers visit with their clients. The facility has “gifted” a 2 drawer file cabinet that they are allowed to keep some forms, but that is it. The ‘office’ has to be set up each day twice a day in the morning and after lunch.

b.  The lawyers have mass meetings with detainees from 9- 1130 in the morning and 1-330 in the afternoon.

c.  This day, the guards did not bring the group of detainees until 1:45 but that did not mean an extra 45 minutes was given at the end…just less time to confer with clients.


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We visited Cibola Detention Center today and witnessed a heart breaking situation with every person we came into contact with.
One in particular was a detainee who wrote his story and drew the picture seen in this update. He gave us permission to use it.
There were many other similar stories but this one was easily relayed.
Miriam Barbosa, Jeni's friend, translated the story for us.
"Father's day. It was the most horrible and bitter day of my life and my children. We have been separated at immigration. Never in life have we been separated in such horrible and inhumane manner. We were chained by our hands and feet, and my son saw what happened with his father and his sister. But the most horrible thing is that we were transferred to a Federal jail. Watching my little girl of 19 years of age walking through this prison where I saw her for the last time... They were searching her and I was behind the barres and I could see her passing by. I was broken inside trying not to show her how I felt, and instead trying to keep her up. Come on my daughter, you are strong. That was my expression and deep inside my heart was absolutely broken feeling like I was going to die. And then they transferred her to New Mexico in chains. I felt I was so helpless thinking about my children and felt like I could no longer do anything. I prayed to God for strength because I could already feel death. Not knowing about them anymore till this day, but I trust in God that with his help and the help of people and institutions it will be possible if we could only have one opportunity. We are simply parents and children!"
There is important work happening here with NMILC and The Santa Fe Dreamers Project.
Thank you for your kind words of support and your financial support.
We have raised more than our expenses so everything raised now will go toward a donation for the law centers here.
Thanks again!
-Jason & Jeni
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