Migrant caravan fundraiser event addresses complexities of crisis in Tijuana

by Maya AlZaben, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s School of Public Affairs hosted a Refugee Holiday Fundraiser on Dec. 5 to collect warm clothing, tents, blankets and other supplies for the migrants in Tijuana, featuring speakers who discussed the complex issues surrounding the asylum seekers.

Assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, Anna Kim, said she organized the event because she believes there are a lot of people in the SDSU community that do care about the refugees and that they just needed a time and a moment to get together and share stories about the refugee-American experience.

“Getting people together in the same room allowed us all to see how many people in the community are doing wonderful work and how we can help right now,” Kim said. “It’s the holidays, it’s cold and (it’s) the time that people want to give.”

Professors from various departments also spoke at the event, explaining the conditions that led to an exodus of people from Central America.

“Why did the caravan come knowing full well that they wouldn’t be allowed in?” Chicana and Chicano studies professor Victoria Gonzalez-Rivera wondered. “Well, most people in the U.S. don’t know how this country’s immigration laws work, why on earth would someone from Honduras know.”

The speakers went on discussing some of the reasons that push refugees to escape their home countries. Geography professor Kate Swanson explained how many of the refugees seeking asylum are escaping from sexual violence, gangs affiliated threats, child pregnancies and other dangers back home.

But, once out of their home country, Swanson said asylum seekers are faced with more dangers as they attempt to reach the U.S. international border.

“Kidnapping migrants and holding them for ransom has actually become a very lucrative business,” Swanson said. “There is also a very real risk of sexual violence.”

With the risks involved in migrating to another country, Swanson explained it made sense for many asylum seekers to join a caravan.

“If you are in a large group, women, children and LGBTQ individuals might feel safer in numbers and less susceptible to the gangs and the cartels,” Swanson said.

Public health and Latin American studies graduate student, Alexandra Fox, said she thought the fundraiser was important for learning information about the caravan migrants that other news media outlets might be not be covering.

“I think people need to be more aware of what’s happening because I don’t think that the news shows everything and so people coming here and talking about it is important,” Fox said.

Event organizers said donations and funds for the immigrants will be delivered directly to the hands of the asylum seekers in Tijuana through the SDSU Center for Regional Sustainability and Sage Project and through the Centro Cultural de la Raza.

The donation drive has also been extended until Dec. 22 at Centro Cultural de la Raza. Items such as warm clothes, tents and blankets are in especially high demand due to the rain and colder weather.