Human+Kind: Madre Margarita

Madre Margarita. Photo credit: Carlos Rodriguez, Red Cross Volunteer

Madre Margarita. Photo credit: Carlos Rodriguez, Red Cross Volunteer

Migration affects the lives of millions across the United States, the Americas, and globally. The Human+Kind project seeks to highlight the stories of migrants in the US-Mexico borderlands and the work of humanitarian organizations to support them, including the work of the Red Cross. For more from this project, please click here.

"We started this shelter in 1999 after seeing so many people roaming the streets at night in Tijuana after being deported. The people of Tijuana and the people of the United States opened their hearts and worked together to address the need of migrants who were hungry and found themselves alone in a unfamiliar place. 

"Today, we serve over 1,000 breakfasts per day. We also help with legal aid and free phone calls to family back home whether it’s in Mexico or Central America. We offer showers and an opportunity to change into clean clothes, get a haircut, and obtain basic medical care. Ultimately, we help restore dignity to the person who has fallen and now finds himself in the most adverse conditions. 

"We understand why they fall, we understand. We are talking about the migrant who comes from the south, one who flees violence and extreme poverty, one who wants to find the best for his family, for his people, for himself. We recognize the frustration he feels from attempting and often failing to cross, of getting stuck here, of being deported after working 10, 15, 20, 30 years in the United States, who is yanked from the street because he’s caught driving without a license, or driving after having a beer or two. 

"The majority of people we see are not lifelong delinquents nor have they committed a violent crime. They’re people whose minor transgressions have been magnified by the United States and now find themselves here with their lives turned upside down.

"We have seen people die in the streets. The pain felt by the people we serve makes us do what we do. We’re all volunteers — and it’s all made possible because of the volunteers. Everyone here comes to give their hands and their hearts, including those who donate funds. People see what we do — how our actions are based in charity and love — and we come together for a good cause.

"There are migrants who have spent so much time in the United States that, when they are deported to Mexico, they have no identification or legal documents. They find themselves being illegal here too. We help them obtain a copy of their birth certificates and restore their legal standing. With that they are able to look for work and avoid getting picked up by the police for lacking proper identification.

"We also help people who have earned certification or gained work experience in the United States — be it as a carpenter, an electrician, a cook, a farmworker — and we help them earn their certification here.

"We’ve seen so much here. Tragic things. We’ve seen families that have traveled long distances because they believe that life in the United States is easy, that the American Dream really exists, that’s it’s easy to buy a truck or anything else. But the reality is different. Life is hard in the United States, just like it is anywhere else. In this life we have to work. And I tell them that if they worked in their hometown, they could live well. 

"What is happiness? Happiness does not come from owning a new car or a mansion. Happiness is having life, having family by your side, having a roof over your head, having food to eat. And if it’s beans in a tortilla, what’s the problem? You’re happy. What are you looking for? Of course poverty exists! But people mortgage their property their furniture or they borrow up to $12,000 to give to a smuggler to get them across to the United States. Why? They’ll never get that back.

"This is my opinion. It’s one that’s been formed by what I experience here each and everyday."