Syracuse Resident Camps Out at Southern Border to Assist Asylum Seekers

Nov 30, 2018

Mexican Police stand guard at the Tijuana border crossing.
Credit Provided photo / Sheila Sicilia

A Syracuse woman has traveled more than 2,700 miles to the southern border near Tijuana to support the Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.  The Trump administration is sending 15,000 troops to the border in an effort to stop the so-called “caravan” from entering the US.  WAER News caught up with Sheila Sicilia via a shaky phone line, and she says the migrants are fleeing dictators and violence that have been perpetuated by decades of flawed US policy. 

“They are trying to use the legal channels of asylum…it would’ve been much better if instead of sending troops if we had sent more immigration people who could process asylum applications.”

Sicilia and numerous other like-minded activists are camped out in tents beneath an overpass near the border entrance, ready to provide supplies for the migrants and advocate for them.   Thursday, she says a group in Mexico peacefully marched toward the border singing songs and praying, with no intention of crossing.  But they were stopped a block away. 

This peaceful march toward the U.S. border was stopped a block or so away from the crossing.
Credit provided photo / Sheila Sicilia

“I saw lots of moms and kids…and I saw people who were in solidarity with one another and not being violent or trying to do anything bad.  They’re people who want to live and want to live safely.”

Sicilia says police are everywhere and haven’t bothered the activists.  In fact, she says officers have been posted near their encampment, and keep an eye on them all night.  Sicilia also feels safe in her group…

I know if something happens to me there will be somebody witnessing it, reporting it and keeping an eye out and,  putting pressure on if I need to be released from somewhere, putting pressure on them,  and vice versa.  We’re also trying to provide that for the refugees, that we’re witnesses too, and we shot a lot of  video of what’s going on, and we want to be witnesses to how they’re being treated.”

Sicilia and others are staying in tents beneath an overpass. In the upper right, you can see a sign that says Tijuana.
Credit provided photo / Sheila Sicilia

Sicilia will be at the border through Monday, and says others may make the trip.  Meanwhile, she says the Immigrant and Refugee Defense Network and the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition of Central New York are collecting funds to send to the border so Sicilia and others can purchase supplies for the refugees.