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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

NorCal Resist discusses volunteer trip to Mexican border
Olga Rodriguez speaking with along with other panelists to participants at the NorCal Resist discussion | Student Center – City College Main Campus | Thursday 02-28-2019 | Photo by Niko Panagopoulos | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Rose Vega | Features Editor | [email protected]

Helping a family write their contact numbers on their arms, in case something happened to their papers, was something that Dale Stark had to do as a volunteer in the medical clinic on the border of Mexico.

It was one of the many things Stark, a retired pediatrician, would remember because the day before the same family had welcomed their second child. Now Stark was helping that family with a 2-day-old infant prepare for their journey into the United States.   

Stark was one of the volunteers from NorCal Resist and the National Lawyers Guild Sacramento Chapter who took part in a panel discussion Feb. 28 in the Student Center about helping migrants and asylum seekers at the border.

The event was put together by Liliana Mendoza, who works for the Hispanic Serving Institution office on campus to organize programs and events on campus that let students engage with different perspectives in both Hispanic and underrepresented communities.

“This campus has a large population of Hispanic students, above 25 percent,” said Mendoza. “That means that we actually apply for a federal grant to provide different programs and institutional support and change for Hispanic students but also underrepresented students.”

The discussion was led by Autumn Gonzalez, a member of NorCal Resist, a local migrants rights and progressive political group in Sacramento. The group has made two trips to the border—one at the end of December 2018 and one in February.

“Our organization is all volunteers. We don’t have staff or anything,” said Gonzalez. “We kind of planned these two trips ourselves. Everyone pitches in and makes the trip work.”

The panel was made up of volunteer Julie Garza-Withers, who went on the first border trip, and Dale Stark, Rosaura Unangst, Olga Rodriguez and Gurdeep Dhaliwal, volunteers during the second trip.

The team was split between those working for Al Otro Lado, a legal organization that has a border project in Tijuana, and those working on the United States side with San Diego Rapid Response.

Gurdeep Dhaliwal is an administrative law judge who worked on the Tijuana side with Al Otro Lado and was also able to help out on the San Diego side.

Gurdeep Dhaliwal answers questions from participants about conditions of detainees at the US border near Tijuana | Student Center – City College Main Campus | Thursday 02-28-2019 | Photo by Niko Panagopoulos | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

“A lot of people seeking asylum are getting misinformation, are being deterred,” said Dhaliwal. “Just the racism and discrimination out there is impacting [migrants’] ability to able to take their legal right because people are misinforming them, are making it difficult are making it impossible, are ruining their chances to seek asylum.”

Dhaliwal said that providing the correct information to asylum seekers was part of the volunteers’ responsibility. They also had to scan documents into a computer file, so that in case an individual lost them, they would have a secure way of accessing the documents no matter where they were.
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Dale Stark volunteered for Al Otro Lado during the February trip to the border, working in the medical clinic.

“There were times I was sweeping floors,” said Stark. “I helped out with child care. We all did our pieces. So if you want to volunteer, but you don’t think you have a skill, they’ll put you to work.”

Stark said that the process for people seeking asylum starts with a small slip of paper with a number on it. She noted that sometimes 80 to 100 people came to receive a number each day, but that only about 20 to 40 would actually get called. People sometimes have to wait several weeks before their number is up.

“Then they have to go find shelter in the meantime,” said Stark. “They have to come back and start waiting every morning when their number is near to be called.”

Unangst and Rodriguez worked with those after their numbers were called on the U.S. side in San Diego, specifically with those who had children. Unangst said that the process was different for those crossing the border without children.

“During the day we were in charge of organizing the phone calls,” said Unangst. “People were calling either people back home or in the states that they haven’t spoken to to let them know that they are safe.”

Unangst explained that San Diego Rapid Response works with the families to arrange transportation from the shelter to the airport or bus station and also makes sure they have all the information needed for their journey into a new country.

However, the process is more than just arranging transportation. It also includes a medical exam and paperwork.

“In those 24 hours when they arrive, they have to process all these people,” said Rodriguez. “They have to go through a health process, and they have to be checked if they’re coming with any lice, disease, if they have any sickness, colds.”

Rodriguez said that asylum seekers then go through intake and that most of the families they worked with already have sponsors in the United States, as well as an appointment date for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The volunteers would help shuttle the asylum seekers to the airport or bus station and were even given access to help them through airport security.

Gonzalez said that NorCal Resist members are thinking about planning another trip as soon as another migrant caravan approaches Tijuana. She encourages those who want to get involved to know that they don’t have to go with a specific organization but that people can plan trips and volunteer on their own.  

“I think that’s one of things about volunteering,” said Garza-Withers. “You’re not going to save the world. You’re going to just be a part and a piece of a much bigger puzzle.”

Those interested in volunteering or donating can go to for more information.  

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