Making Government Work

Setting Politics Aside, Americans Are Stepping Up to Help Migrant Kids

August 7, 2014
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Setting Politics Aside, Americans Are Stepping Up to Help Migrant Kids
Two girls at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Arizona. Ross D. Franklin/Getty Images
Helping hands are being extended nationwide — from a California teenager to a New York City bookstore.

A new Gallup Poll finds that the issue of immigration has become the number one national concern of Americans. And while there’s no legislative solution in sight to cope with the massive influx of refugee children fleeing Central American gang violence and arriving in the states that border Mexico, individuals across the country are putting partisan issues aside in the face of this humanitarian crisis, coming up with ways to help.

In San Francisco, 17-year-old high school student Julia Tognotti has been working tirelessly to collect clothing for the detained children ever since she saw a documentary on the crisis in her Spanish class last May. After school recessed for summer vacation, she traveled to Nogales, Texas, and volunteered in a shelter for the migrant kids.

“I talked to a boy there on the first day named Brian. He was 17 and I’m 17 and he was from Honduras and it took him two months to get to Mexico and he took seven trains. And I was so surprised to hear this because it really made me think, ‘could I do this?'” she told Sergio Quintana of ABC 7 News San Francisco.

Tognotti has collected two loads of clothes to send to Nogales and is planning to continue her work, accepting donations in Brisbane, California. She also hopes to organize a trip to the border for more teenagers to learn about the issue. Julia’s father David Tognotti told Quintana that the family doesn’t want to get “tangled up in the politics of the issue,” they just want to help the kids.

“We have a 17-year-old that’s trying to do what she believes is right to help people and it would be great if we could help support her.”

Meanwhile, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), a Washington, D.C.-based national organization promoting Latino leadership, organized a trip for concerned people to volunteer at a refugee shelter run by Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas. Actress America Ferrara, best known as the title character in “Ugly Betty,” joined the mission, reading books to the kids. HHF has also donated clothes, toys, books, and tablet computers.

In New York, La Casa Azul Bookstore is coordinating a book drive to supply migrant kids who arrive at shelters in the New York City area with free reading material. They’re looking for new and gently-used books in Spanish for kids and are offering a 10 percent discount to anyone who buys such books at their store. La Casa Azul will collect the books through August 10 and personally deliver them to children and teenagers in need.

As the actions of these caring Americans demonstrate, we don’t have to wait for government action before we reach out to help another human being.

MORE: Meet the Volunteers Bringing Relief to the Humanitarian Crisis in the Southwest

 

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