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The Other Side of The Border

University professor travels to border to help migrant refugees

Two+migrant+teens+embrace+near+the+Mexican+-+U.S.+border+Photo+courtesy+of+Professor+Tanya+Kane+-+Parry
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The Other Side of The Border

Two migrant teens embrace near the Mexican - U.S. border Photo courtesy of Professor Tanya Kane - Parry

Two migrant teens embrace near the Mexican - U.S. border Photo courtesy of Professor Tanya Kane - Parry

Two migrant teens embrace near the Mexican - U.S. border Photo courtesy of Professor Tanya Kane - Parry

Two migrant teens embrace near the Mexican - U.S. border Photo courtesy of Professor Tanya Kane - Parry

Jessica Zermeno, Multimedia Journalist

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Professor Tanya Kane-Parry, the Director of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Television and Theater at Cal State LA,  put her life on hold to volunteer her time in Tijuana, Mexico. Prior to her volunteer work, Kane-Parry visited Central America and took time to speak to the locals about what was taking place in the caravans. Her ability to understand and speak Spanish with the migrants fluently allowed her a better understanding of what was occurring.

Currently, thousands of refugees from Central and South America are being held in unsanitary encampments in Tijuana. They are seeking safety from gang violence, local cartels and the law enforcement by attempting to cross the border into the United States. Processing the large amount of migrant arrivals at once, along with the U.S. Government limiting the volume of asylum seekers has proven to be challenging. The circumstances are leaving the migrants in what Kane-Parry describes as “poor and inhuman conditions”.

After returning to her home country in the United States, Kane-Parry was greeted with people who were being gassed and running for their lives. She felt the need to “do the right thing” and seize the moment to “be on the right side of history.” She reached out to numerous organizations and connected with a group called Salef, based in Los Angeles, and began providing her service to asylum-seekers in Tijuana shortly after. She volunteered a total of two weeks in late December and early January. Once in Tijuana, Kane-Parry teamed up with Al Otro Lado.

Al Otro Lado is one of various organizations volunteering as part of the Border Rights Project that offers legal and medical assistance to migrant shelters currently in Tijuana. The organization provides direct legal representation to detained asylum seekers in Southern California.

“Al Otro Lado” translates to English as “to the other side.” According to the organizations website, alotrolado.org, the organization documents human rights violations committed against asylum seekers at the port-of-entry and inside immigration detention centers.

During Kane-Parry’s two weeks of volunteering in Tijuana, she went through emotional experiences including meeting a teenager who relived the gruesome loss of his parents and sister, and seeing the mistreatment and living conditions of thousands of migrants. Kane-Parry said that witnessing migrants’ appreciation of the volunteers’ time is what she holds dear:

“To see people leaving at the end of the day, shaking our hands and thanking us; they felt heard and cared for.”

Kane-Parry’s volunteer time included working with various organizations, stocking up on foods, translating for migrants and being a legal observer. In regard to the current situation, Kane-Parry said, “We [United States] are breaking every international humanitarian law and human rights law in the world.”

She urges people to take time to volunteer in any way. There are many roles that can be filled including: child care workers, interpreters, translators, legal observers, nurses, doctors and counselors.

“I really think the most impactful way to help is to go,” said Kane-Parry.

To learn more about the Al Otro Lado Organization and other ways to donate or volunteer, visit alotrolado.org. If you are interested in taking time to visit Tijuana for a day, you can contact Professor Kane-Parry at her email tkanepa@calstatela.edu. Please include how you would like to assist.  You can also visit her office in MUS 243.

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