diciembre 6, 2022

Respettrans and the Thirst to Learn

Respettrans and the Thirst to Learn Migrantes aprenden en Juárez mientras esperan por su citas

AT RESPETTRANS| Ana Janet Martínez, volunteer teacher, with her immigrant students. (Fotos/Morgan Smith-El Comercio de Colorado)

Morgan Smith

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Respettrans is a migrant shelter located in a decrepit looking five story building near the international bridge in Juárez, Mexico. It usually houses at least 200 migrants, most of whom are women with children and most of whom come from Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador or from Mexico itself. Respettrans and the Thirst to Learn.

They wait in this shelter until they can get an initial “credible fear” hearing with US officials. If they pass that test, they can enter the US legally and go live with a family member or sponsor until they have a final hearing before a judge.

This is one of many migrant shelters along the border and in cities like Juárez. I write about it because it is a model about how migrants should be treated and what they should do to prepare themselves for life in the United States, a country they know little about.

Respettrans is supported heavily by a non-profit named Dignity Mission located in Placitas, New Mexico near Albuquerque. Dignity Mission was founded by Jack and Cheryl Ferrell; they and their volunteers gather huge loads of food and clothing from friendsand take them in a large rented van to El Paso where they are stored in the garage of Eva Moya, a professor from the University of El Paso at Texas. Her volunteers – my wife and I included -then ferry them across the border, car load by car load.

Respettrans is unique because it is basically run by the migrants themselves. The Director is a very impressive nurse named Grecia Herrera but she has a day job in a local hospital so the migrants have selected their own leaders and do all the cooking, cleaning and management. Although the exterior of the building looks dilapidated, the interior is spotless. Meals are served on the main floor and the migrants live in large open areas on the upper levels where they have mattresses on the floor.


The vast majority of these migrants will pass their asylum tests and will end up living in the United States. They have sacrificed greatly for this – leaving their home towns and other family members, borrowing thousands of dollars to pay “coyotes” or “polleros”, making the dangerous 2,000 miles trip to the border, then waiting for their hearings. It’s a brutal experience and I wish that their hearings could be accelerated.

Respettrans and the Thirst to Learn Migrantes aprenden en Juárez mientras esperan por su citas

HONDURAN| Fernanda shows her exercise book.

One key factor at Respettrans is education and language. How will these young children function in the United States if they cannot speak our language?

For a number of months now, I have watched as various women migrants organize classes for these children. It’s a heartwarming experience. Most of the women who do this have learned some English in their home countries but they are not experts. Nonetheless, they can teach the basics.

The students are determined to learn. For example, I have included a photo of a girl from Honduras with her workbook. There were roughly 40 pages of exercises she had completed in that book, so she is very dedicated to learning.

Most of these teachers and students will soon be in the United States. We will be lucky to have them and the thirst to learn that they bring.

Morgan Smith is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and travels to the border every month to help programs like Repettrans. He can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net.

Respettrans and the Thirst to Learn

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