Do I Feed My Children Today or Do I Pay for Internet? | Sojourners


The picture shows the legs of a girl standing on the bank of the Rio Grande, holding a Barbie doll by its hair.

Julieta, a child from Haiti, waits to cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico to El Paso in the United States on Jan. 2, 2024. / Herika Martinez / Getty

Playing the Lottery

To gain asylum in the U.S., migrants have to use a complicated app to get individual appointments, often splitting up families.
By Felicia Rangel-Samponaro

WE DON'T HAVE typical days [assisting asylum seekers]. It just depends on what the new U.S. law or policy is for immigration. The CBP One application is the only way [asylum seekers] can now enter the U.S. You have to use the app on your phone every day, so you’re making choices: Do I feed my children today or do I pay for internet so I can hopefully get an appointment? The CBP One application is a lottery. Some people play for eight months straight. Some play for one week. You never know when you get picked. We bought Starlinks [satellite internet] for the shelters we run so asylum seekers could have internet access and we give out our passwords to everybody. We want you to have that chance to legally cross into the U.S. 

U.S. law says unaccompanied minors don’t need a CBP One appointment. Let me tell you, those children need a CBP One appointment, they definitely do. Our country deports unaccompanied minors. Their parents could be sitting on U.S. soil. And as advocates on the ground, I could be telling the U.S. government, “Their mom is right here!” Oftentimes [the response is], “We’re going to fly your child back to a home country where there’s no family left, especially if you’re from Haiti.”

We’re not a religious organization, [but] I have seen God in these encampments so many times: People praying for each other, praying for themselves, praying for us. I don’t know how people could make it through these encampments if it wasn’t for their faith, whatever their faith is, because they are tested daily. There is no invasion at our border. What you’re seeing is people running for their lives.

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The picture shows a Latina woman with curly black hair and red lipstick smiling at something in the distance. She is standing in front of a body of water.

Felicia Rangel-Samponaro is co-director of The Sidewalk School for Asylum Seekers, which provides education, health care, and shelter for asylum seekers in Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico.