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Network Created to Help Shifting Migrant Population

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WESLACO – Migrant populations continue to bottleneck on the Mexican side of the border.

Volunteer organizations who want to continue to help now have to go further to do it.

A new network is aiming at bringing helpers and those in need of their help together.

Volunteers are crossing the border to help the hundreds stranded under the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Migrants are being sent to a border state riddled with violence. Gaby Zavala, a volunteer, met a father and daughter desperate to get out.

"They (criminal organizations) constantly threaten him. They say, 'your daughter is so beautiful. We're going to take her from you and we're going to sell her,'" said Zavala.

And they did, Zavala says.

The father and his young daughter were kidnapped while they waited to request asylum in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

They escaped their kidnappers and crossed into the U.S. to seek relief. The father and girl were sent back to Tamaulipas under MPP.

Zavala is working with him and many like him through the network she created, Asylum Seeker Network of Support.

"We try to take care of their basic needs as case management style work. So if they need food, they need clothing, we try to provide that to them but moreover we are trying to connect them with tools and equipment that they can get work," explained Zavala.

She began volunteering with Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville where she became the respite center director.

Then she expanded on her efforts and created the network. Zavala acquired a building in Matamoros where it would be based.

Security issues forced her to keep looking.

They're now considering investing in a mobile lab – so they can move if they have to.

Even so, the work never stopped. Not even when she entered her third trimester.

Zavala works with a group of volunteers who make calls to connect migrants to attorneys, goods or services, coordinate events, or who act as liaisons between migrants and their consulates.

They're also working on collecting data.

"A lot of the studies that we are creating are to correlate their conditions to the policies in hopes of grouping all that data together and creating fact sheets that well use to educate Congress and policy makers," explained Zavala.

They hope information they gather can help shed light on the effect of policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Zavala is due in about a month. That might slow her down.

She says, "Well, I tell people when my water breaks."

By then, she plans to keep working from home.

The network is working with an organization from Ohio helping pay for shelter.

Zavala says their work is supported through donations, fundraisers and volunteers.

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