FARGO — The living conditions for migrants at the Mexican border are deplorable. Just ask, Vicki Schmidt, 74, of West Fargo. Schmidt is co-founder of Opening Borders, an organization about our immigration system. She has visited the border 25 times. She has met with the border patrol and people living in shelters.
“I’ve had women and men weep on my shoulders, saying they don’t know where their kids are,” Schmidt said. “The living conditions at some sites are inhumane. There are no bathrooms, no showers, no hygiene products, no heat, no warm clothing, and not enough food. I don’t know how they survive. They’re treated like dogs.”
To boost the spirits of the children there, Schmidt has started a letter-writing campaign to them. Whether it be on social media or personal appearances at churches or schools, Schmidt has spread the word about the letters.
“We want the kids and their parents to know we care about them,” Schmidt said. “We don’t believe this is right. We want them to know we love them, stand with them, and we’re sorry this is happening.”
The response has been overwhelming. About 500 letters have been written from North Dakotans, Minnesotans and people from around the country. The letters are touching and heartfelt. One of them says, “Sending love to you from people who care about you in North Dakota!”
Another letter says, “Sending love, hope, and always remember to stay positive. You have a bright future ahead. Remember that God is always with you and taking care of you.”
The challenge is getting the letters to the children at the detention facilities, seeing how there’s limited access there. So, Schmidt had the great idea of asking Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., to deliver and read them in person. That’s because Armstrong is a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. Schmidt said Armstrong should have greater access to the facilities, plus it would be a good learning experience for him.
Sorry to say Armstrong has declined. Brandon VerVelde, Armstrong’s communications director, said in an email to me that, “We don’t have any trips planned to go to the border at this time. Should that change, we’d be happy to revisit the request.”
It would be a nice and meaningful gesture if Armstrong would deliver the letters. These are desperate people. They’re not criminals. They’re trying to escape extreme violence, possible murder and brutal poverty.
This is not say the U.S. can take all of them in. However, they are wrongfully being denied the chance to come to the U.S. and request asylum, where at least some of them would qualify.
Meantime, Schmidt plans to go back to the border three times next year.
“These people have the right to safety and to be free from fear. We are denying them due process. I come to show them God’s love, let them know people care about them, and we don’t approve of how they are being treated.”