From posting bail to legal aid: NGOs go into overdrive at border

From posting bail to legal aid: NGOs go into overdrive at border

San Diego, California – Victor* first came to the United States in 2006. He left his village in the mountains of Peru during the country’s civil war in the 1990s after his family’s cow was stolen at gunpoint.

As a farmer, his family’s entire livelihood relied on that cow and the loss of it forced Victor to flee. First to the capital Lima, and later to Mexico.

He eventually crossed the border into the US, where he worked his way up to being a restaurant manager, and then got a job for a construction company.

But in January, Victor’s mother became gravely ill and he left the US to take care of her in Peru. When she recovered, Victor made his way back to the US border, but things had changed significantly since he last crossed more than five years earlier.

The border was better fortified and Border Patrol agents seemed more abundant.

When he arrived at the border with the smugglers he paid to take him across, border agents could be seen in the distance.

“It was a tense situation,” Victor recalled. The smugglers told him to go anyway. Moments later, he was apprehended and detained.

A judge set a bail at $7,000 – money his family did not have.

But he received help from an organization specifically conceived to help low-income individuals pay their bail.

The organisation, dubbed the Bail Project, is one of many ways groups and individuals are supporting migrants and refugees at the border. The projects have gone into overdrive in the past two years, seeking to combat President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

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